Showing posts with label witness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label witness. Show all posts

Monday, September 5, 2022

It’s Iimi! There is Nothing Concealed That Will Not Be Revealed

After accepting that Jesus Christ is who Christians profess He is, Kismetta hopes to avoid strife by keeping this information from her family. But is she about to learn the truth of the words of the Gospel: There is Nothing Concealed That Will Not Be Revealed.





























Saturday, November 7, 2020

Faithfulness to All of God’s Commands

Barring some irrefutable evidence (none has been presented yet) that invalidates a portion of ballots in a way that changes the Electoral Vote count, we need to face the reality of a new President… a President who is on record as saying he will institute things at odds with the Catholic faith that he professes to follow. So, it is understandable that some Catholic voters will be dismayed or angry at the results. Of course, when any government tries to make an unjust law, we have the obligation to oppose it.

But the obligations of Catholics do not stop with opposing unjust laws. We are called to act rightly, even when those who hate us treat us wrongly. And that calling means we may not hate or do evil to anyone.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? (Matthew 5:43-47)

That is the kind of command that does not permit evasion or exceptions. Whatever you think of the President-Elect, we are commanded to love him even should he make himself our enemy by his actions. And even if he does govern unjustly, we are forbidden to behave in certain ways. As St. Peter teaches:

For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace. But what credit is there if you are patient when beaten for doing wrong? But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.  (1 Peter 2:19-21)

I think we need to keep this in mind. Barring a miraculous change of heart, we can expect Biden to do certain things contrary to the teachings of the Church as he promised to do. But we do not have the right to disobey Christ just because Biden refuses to follow the Church Christ established. Nor do we have the right to disobey Christ just because the “other side” refused to act in this way towards his predecessor.

Tragically, many seem to think that this obligation means we must stay silent and not oppose evil. So, we can expect a litany of charges against Biden and what he supports along with accusations that we are either ignorant of or supporting evil policies. But that is not true. We are aware. Christians were not ignorant or silent in the face of the persecutions in the Roman Empire either. But they still insisted on recognizing that the persecutors were human beings and needing salvation. As St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy:

First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

In following his lead, we are not only asking for deliverance from being harmed by them, but we are also seeking the ultimate good for them. 

And that brings us to our own obligation. We are called to take part in the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:19-20). That is achieved in part by our words, and in part by the witness we provide in our actions. Do we show that we practice what we preach to them? People are good in spotting hypocrisy on the other side, but not so good spotting it on their own side. So, even if those who oppose us should live in a reprehensible way and not notice it, they will notice if we fail in our calling to live according to what Jesus taught.

There is an old quote, apocryphally attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, that goes Preach the Gospel Always. If Necessary, Use Words.  What it means is, we should be living in a way that shows we believe what we claim. The Christian life was one of the greatest witnesses to the pagans. Tertullian observed (Apology, Chapter 39.7):

The practice of such a special love brands us in the eyes of some. ‘See,’ they say, ‘how they love one another’; (for they hate one another), ‘and how ready they are to die for each other.’ (They themselves would be more ready to kill each other.)

So, let us consider that. If we believe that the incoming government and the people within it are championing it are doing and risking their souls, what is going to be a response more likely to let them respond to the grace God offers: An opposition that treats them like a brother, or an opposition that treats them like the scum of the Earth§?

You might say that the stakes are too high, and these are unrealistic ideals. But countless Christians who were martyred chose to witness love, not hatred to their persecutors. What Christ commands is not unreasonable. So, if we are inclined to balk, we must ask whether it is a case where we just do not want to follow it when it threatens our comfort.

We are the ones who witness Christianity to the world. We should ask ourselves how that witness looks to the outside world, and whether we will be called to give an accounting of ourselves.

________________

(†) Some seem to be in denial, expecting that the rumors of voter fraud will be proven true.

(‡) It does not seem to have been known in this form before the 1990s.

(§) If someone chooses the latter as a correct answer, might I suggest a remedial course in Catholic teaching?

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Just a Pinch of Incense 2019

Let us not then seek relaxation: for Christ promised tribulation to His disciples: and Paul says, “All Who will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. 3:12.) No noble-spirited wrestler, when in the lists, seeks for baths, and a table full of food and wine. This is not for a wrestler, but for a sluggard. For the wrestler contendeth with dust, with oil, with the heat of the sun’s ray, with much sweat, with pressure and constraint. This is the time for contest and for fighting, therefore also for being wounded, and for being bloody and in pain.

—St. John Chrysostom, Homilies On Hebrews V, #6

You might have heard of Bishop Tobin being attacked because he publicly stated that the “Gay Pride” events are incompatible with the Catholic Faith, and we should not participate in them. Or you might have seen (or been) the Christians savaged on social media for standing up for our beliefs on sexual morality. It’s ugly, it’s committing the same actions they falsely accuse us of. But it’s not anything we weren’t warned about.

The attacks we face at this time are both soft deceptions and hard attacks. We’re told, “love is love.” We’re shown books, television shows, and movies portraying these relationships as either completely accepted or horribly persecuted. The message is that there is no valid reason to oppose these relationships and whoever does so must be motivated by ignorance and hatred. Since the social and media elites declare there can be no justification for hatred, those who refuse to comply with their views must be driven out and silenced… punished until they confess their guilt and yield.

Early Christians could offer “a pinch of incense” or face persecution.
So can we… by betraying our fidelity to Our Lord, Jesus Christ

Of course, we must be certain that our behavior is not deserving of reproach. As St. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:19–20,

For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace. But what credit is there if you are patient when beaten for doing wrong? But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.

But we must not confuse speaking the objective truth that “this act is morally wrong, and we may not participate or appear to give support” with speaking harshly or dogmatically. Yes, unfortunately some Catholics—including some clergy—have spoken that way. But to assume that any speech saying “X is wrong” is bigotry against practitioners of X is the “either-or” fallacy. To judge the belief of the Church based on the worst people who agree with it is the “guilt by association” fallacy. To assume that the bad behavior of some members represents the teaching of the whole Church is the fallacy of composition.

What Bishop Tobin did here was remind the faithful that we cannot burn incense at the altar out of agreement or fear. If we profess to follow Christ, our words and actions must bear witness: not just in showing love for our neighbor, but in standing up for what we believe in the face of hostility. As St. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:2–4, we must:

…proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.

When the world is wrong, we must testify to that fact, even though the world (or the elites who shape the mob) hate us for it. 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Do We Act as We Believe? The Double Standard Trap

There’s a saying, falsely attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach always. If necessary, use words.” Sometimes mocked by people who don’t understand it, it actually means we should realize that our behavior will show others how seriously we really take our faith. As Tertullian described the words of persecutors seeing the behavior of Christians: 

The practice of such a special love brands us in the eyes of some. ‘See,’ they say, ‘how they love one another’; (for they hate one another), ‘and how ready they are to die for each other.’ (They themselves would be more ready to kill each other.)” (Apology, Chapter 39).

Keeping this in mind, Catholics have to beware giving a bad witness by the tendency to condone in an ally something which they absolutely will not tolerate in an opponent. So, you might see the gaffes of politician A treated as proof of senility, while similar gaffes by politician B is treated as a simple mistake. You might see a Catholic blogger condemn voting for Candidate X on grounds of limiting evil while advocating voting for candidate Y on the same grounds. This can also happen within the Church. You might see a Catholic denouncing other Catholics dissenting against the teaching of one Pope while rejecting the authority of his successor.

I call this “Okay for me, but not for thee.” It’s not limited to Catholics of course. But since we’re supposed to be the light of the world, the city on the hill, the salt of the earth, the witness we bear should be consistent. If a thing is wrong, we are supposed to bear witness to the truth in both our words and actions. But if we turn a blind eye to the sins of our allies, the witness our actions bear shows that we don’t really act from love and justice. Rather we act hypocritically from partisan motivations. And if the person who sees this and is repelled by it ends up facing judgment for rejecting the call from God, we are likely to face judgment alongside him or her.

This doesn’t mean we treat our friends like enemies, harshly judging their actions (cf. Matthew 7:1ff). Nor does it mean that we treat wrongdoers with laxity. It means we act justly and mercifully to friend and foe alike. We refuse to ever justify evil, but we act in a way that seeks the good of the wrongdoers and not driving them away from seeking salvation.

That is the witness we want to show by our actions: behavior that leads the other to ask, “what guides these people to live in this way.” Then our words will be recognized as sincere, that we really believe and practice what we call them to be.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Reformation Day 2017 and Catholic Dissent

With the run up to “Reformation Day,” we’re seeing some Protestant groups bring up the false claims of things the first Protestants “saved” people from. While the rehashed assertions are annoying (we never believed what they accused us of), they are not a serious threat. There is a mountain of books out there defending the Catholic Church from those charges—either showing that these things were taken out of context, or were abuses condemned by the Church.

We’re also seeing some Catholics repeating the polemics from the 16th century. These Catholics harshly condemn people like Luther, Henry VIII, and Zwingli for rejecting the Catholic Church. They also use the words written to rebuke and warn people who were choosing to leave the Church 500 years ago are applied to people who were never were part of the Church to begin with. Because modern Protestants are not Catholics, they are assumed to be defiantly rejecting the authority of the Church which they are assumed to know. That lacks charity and prudence. Regardless of the wrongs (John 17:20-21) done 500 years ago, God’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) still applies even to those we disagree with. In fact, the Catechism tells us:

817 In fact, “in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church—for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame.” The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ’s Body—here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism270—do not occur without human sin: (2089)

Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.

818 “However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers.… All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church.” (1271)

819 “Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth” are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: “the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.”274 Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to “Catholic unity.”276

Curiously, many of these polemical Catholics, who denounce 21st century Protestants for rejecting the authority of the Church, also reject the authority of the current Pope and bishops in communion with him when they disagree. This makes me wonder if these “defenders” understand the essence of what they claim to defend. Given that the 16th century schism involved the question of who has the authority to interpret Scripture and past teaching, as well as to determine how Christians should live authenticity Christian lives in new circumstances, one would think that these defenders of the Church against Protestantism should recognize that authority and protection from error exists in every generation. If God can protect the Church during the pontificates of Liberius, Honorius I, or John XII, he can protect the Church in this generation, where we lack those kinds of corruption.

Instead, many of these “defenders” behave in the same way they condemned in Martin Luther.  Like him, they believe that the Church fell into error and needed to follow their views to get back on track. Like him, they view their interpretations as correct and the Church in error if the Church goes against their interpretation. But, if Luther was wrong to reject the authority of the Church, then the anti-Francis or anti-Vatican II Catholic is also wrong to reject it because it is the same authority. But, if they claim they are right to reject the authority of the Church when they disagree, then they play the hypocrite when they condemn Luther. They concede his principles and merely disagree on the particulars justifying rejection.

This doesn’t mean we treat everything that a Pope says or does as infallible (a common but false charge made by anti-Catholics and by anti-Francis Catholics). I wish St. John Paul II had not kissed that Qur’an. I wish Benedict XVI had not lifted the excommunications of the SSPX bishops and had not used that example of “the male prostitute with AIDS.” But these things do not take away from the authority of the Popes. What it does mean is that, when the Pope teaches, we give assent to his teaching, trusting that God protects His Church. That doesn’t mean that the teaching in question can’t be refined later (if doctrine) or changed (if discipline). The intellectually or morally bad Popes (and I reject the accusation that Pope Francis is one of these) never taught error, even if they sinned grievously. This protection from error is not a gift of prophecy. It is protecting the Church from binding error or loosing truth.

So, while I may get annoyed when certain Protestants repeat anti-Catholic charges, I think a greater danger comes from the Catholics who claim to defend the faith but actually attack the rock (Matthew 16:18-19) upon which Our Lord built His Church. I can understand (even though I cannot accept) how Protestants who have very little experience with Catholics can believe these myths and think that the Papacy is a human institution with no spiritual authority. But the Catholic has no such excuse. Since we believe that the Church was established by God and protected from error, we cannot reject the teaching authority of the Church when it does not go our way. 

We should consider the consequences of that stance. If we pick and choose when we will listen to the Church and when we will not, then what witness do we give to those outside of the Church? If we reject the Church when we think she went wrong, we give the non-Catholic ammunition for claiming that the Church went wrong 500 years ago or more. Why should they want to enter the Church if we give the impression that the Church can fall into error? 

Speaking in an insulting manner towards non-Catholics will not persuade anyone to consider entering into full communion with the Church. Behaving as if the Church can fall into error will not convince anyone either. If we want to bring converts into the Church, let us start by considering the example we give to others. Do we act as if we believe that the Church is protected by Our Lord? Or do we act as if the Church is merely a human institution that can fall into error, and that we can ignore her?

Let’s keep that in mind when considering how people will perceive our actions. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Quick Quips: Bad Perspectives Edition

Just a Pinch of Incense, 2016 Style

I ran across comments attacking the Little Sisters of the Poor over their lawsuit against the Obama administration concerning the contraceptive mandate.  The derision comes from people who say that it is a lot easier to check a box than to fill out paperwork for a lawsuit.

That argument is remarkably similar to the one used by pagan Roman officials who argued that all a Christian needed to do was "burn a pinch of incense" before the state altars--that is, make a token acknowledgement of the values of the State.

The problem was, the pinch of incense was not a mere gesture.  It meant that the Christian was acknowledging the "gods" of Rome as equally valid as the God worshipped by Christians.  No Christian could do that without being unfaithful to their beliefs.

Similarly,  the "checkmark" is not a mere gesture. It is an action that makes the Little Sisters empower another group to do evil on their behalf.  They cannot do this without being unfaithful to the God they profess to follow.

In neither case can Christians accept the "accommodation" the State offers.  It is no accommodation at all. It is an attack on Christian belief and practice.

Rank Hypocrisy from the Rank and File?

Consider Tobit 4:15... "Do to no one what you yourself hate." I think we can apply it to cheering tactics we deplore when applied against our foes. Remember 1 Corinthians 13:6... Love  "does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth."

I am saddened when I witness Catholics respond to the election news. I see Catholics who deplore the rudeness and racism of Donald Trump respond with racism and rudeness.  I am dismayed to see people who denounced violence at Trump rallies sneer when it comes to Trump having to cancel his appearance at a rally because of unrest.

I must ask these Catholics: If you recognize that what Trump does is wrong, why do you respond in kind and rejoice when he suffers the same?  Schadenfreude is no Catholic virtue!

One can justly oppose Trump's ideas, rhetoric and tactics (in fact, I do).  But when one embraces them or rejoices in them when directed against him, that is not Christian witness to virtue.  It's rank hypocrisy. Let's remember that, as Christians, we are called to witness the Kingdom of God in all aspects of our lives.

Tying it All Together

Both of these cases strike me as coming from an attitude of "do good to my allies and harm to my enemies." In other words, do what benefits me and to hell with you if you disagree.

To which, Our Lord Jesus replies, "For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?" (Matthew 5:46-47).

All people are called to seek out the truth and to live it when discovered. That means discarding false slogans and ceasing to use/cheer immoral tactics even if they seem to benefit us.

Now,  we cannot compel people to choose good. We can only strive to create just laws and seek to show people why we ought to live rightly at the level they can understand. Sometimes people will refuse to listen. But let us reject the tactics of the World to achieve our goals. Otherwise they will simply see our beliefs as partisan and will not see the Truth Who powers them.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

We Have To Behave as Emissaries of Our Lord

It’s no secret that, since Obergefell, Christians who stand for the defense of marriage as God intended it have become something of pariahs on social media, and having our faces rubbed in the ruling. People have been unfriended because they defend Christian morality, accused openly of being bigots. Between the comments and the “rainbowized” pictures, it can be very difficult to avoid lashing out at the people who seem to want to throw the #lovewins and #loveislove in our faces when we know we are being misrepresented and demonized. But it is lashing out that we must not do, and—unfortunately—some Catholics have lashed out in ways which will lead those who support “same sex marriage” to view it as just that much more “proof" that we are the bigots they always thought we were.

We have to remember that it is Our Lord who commanded us:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?* 48 So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. [Matthew 5:43-48]

It doesn’t matter how badly we are treated. In our response, even if we are forced to block them because of abusive attacks, we have to show that we love those who hate us—not as an act, but in sincerity. That means we have to be civil when we debate with them, avoiding insults, sarcasm or other rudeness. Now yes, that is hard. I confess I created a few sarcastic memes that I had to sit on when I really wanted to post them. (Through the grace of God, I was given a sense that to publish them was not in keeping with Christian witness). But we have to remember that the example we provide may be the only witness they have as to how a Christian bears witness to what they believe. If it is a bad witness, we become a stumbling block that keeps others from seeing God’s call.

Now that doesn’t mean that we have to be silent and not say that homosexual acts are wrong, as those who oppose us try to argue. As Emissaries of Our Lord, we have to carry His message telling the world to live according to God’s will. Indeed, when it comes to the State legalizing “same sex marriage,” the Church has made it very clear that we cannot give our assent:

In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.

 

[#5. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2003).

So, we cannot recognize the diktat given to us in the Obergefell ruling as valid or cooperate—we must oppose it. But in doing so we have to be charitable. Being insulting or verbally (textually?) abusive is not the way we are to go about it. “Rainbowizing” Hitler or the Devil is not a charitable tactic for example. Regardless of whether a person is deliberately acting abusively or is unaware of how they come across, we must show the love of Christ while teaching the truth.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Don't Panic

Don t panic

The situation of the religious freedom in America is certainly as bleak as it has ever been in our history. The three branches of government take it as a given that they have the authority to rule on matters that involve religious obligation and to dictate to believers which of their beliefs are valid and which are not. The general trend here is to force religion out of the public square under the assumption that anything with a religious motivation cannot be used to set policy. (That’s the Genetic fallacy by the way). Between the government and the influential shapers of public opinion, people are being led to the view that unpopular religious teaching is based on intolerance (poisoning the well fallacy) and any religious opposition to an issue is portrayed as the equivalent of the racist opposition to civil rights in the 1960s (false analogy fallacy).

The result is, we are now in a situation where religion can be restricted outside of the most narrow redefinitions. The rights of people who profess belief in the Christian moral teachings and the institutions or businesses they establish is denied on the grounds that their belief is merely a repugnant intolerance (Begging the Question fallacy). We could soon see an even more overt attack where Christian individuals and institutions affiliated with churches have no right to refuse to do something their religious beliefs condemn, and thus suffer lawsuits, fines and prosecutions. It’s the kind of behavior we hitherto associated with Communist governments and long said “It can’t happen here—our Constitution prevents it."

The world may end up unjustly oppressing the Church in ways we can’t even guess at right now (Who would have thought, eight years ago, we’d be where we are today?), and individuals need to consider the strong possibility that persecution will afflict them personally, as opposed to something that only happens to people far away. But, as bleak as things are, we must avoid the attitudes of panicking and assuming that the world will defeat the Church. We must certainly avoid the attitude of “if only the bishops had done something, this wouldn’t have happened!” (Hypothesis contrary to fact fallacy).


(Don’t Act Like This)

We Christians may end up losing this battle. But God will win this war. The thing to remember is that if the government here decides to interfere with our seeking to be true to Our Lord, this is not a defeat for God. This has happened before, when persecutions lasted hundreds of years. Reading Butler’s unabridged Lives of the Saints, shows us the persecutions of the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire, Islam and Reformation England where being a member of the Church was a punishable offense—often by death. There are many records of saints who were unjustly hauled before the courts and given the choice between going along with the unjust demands of the state and suffering for putting God first.

We, individually, cannot change the state. All we can do is to bear witness to our faith in God, and show we would rather suffer evil at the hands of men than do evil in the sight of God. Tertullian once said The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. When we show our determination to follow God, and show love for those who hate us, God uses that to bring more people of good will to Him.

So while we may be angry at the injustices done to us and the slanders directed against what we believe, we must make sure that how we live in Christ bears witness. We cannot hate our persecutors. Our task is to love and to continue to teach the world of Christ—even when the world hates and persecutes us for it.

So let us continue to pray for the conversion of our nation, and pray that we may live as God calls us, regardless of what may come. Let us continue to bear witness so people may see the love of Christ in us.

Monday, October 26, 2009

On Witness: Two Quadrilemmas

How are we to understand the attacks made by some atheists against the reliability of the Disciples of Jesus as witnesses to what He said and did?  Christians of course believe that cases against their credibility are dubious at best, but what are they to do when they encounter claims which seek to deny the value of their witness?

The False Revelation Argument

One of the objections given to the witness of the Apostles, is the claim that other people (Mohammed, Joseph Smith, etc.) claim to have had divine revelation.  The problem with the argument is that it generally concludes to the effect of "Those claims were false so it is also likely that the claims of the Apostles are false.

You can't Prove a Universal from a Limited Case

There are several problems with this sort of an argument.  First of all, it argues from a specific case to reach a universal conclusion.  If what Mohammed or Joseph Smith claims is not true, that speaks against their specific case, not the case of anybody else.  If Bill and Jack both claim to have been robbed, and Jack lied about it has no bearing on whether Bill was lying.

What that argument has as an enthymeme (an unspoken assumption) is the claim that God does not exist so any claims of a form of revelation are false.  So the full argument would run like this:

  • God does not exist (Enthymeme)
  • Person X claims to have had a revelation from God
  • Therefore Person X is lying or deceived

The problem of course is the enthymeme needs to be proven logically if it is to be used as the basis of a logical argument.  If the premise needs to be established as valid, the conclusion is not proven to be true.  So as it stands, the argument cannot be used as a challenge to the case of witnesses.

The False Analogy

The second common problem with the claim is it is a false analogy.  People like Mohammed and Joseph Smith claimed to have private revelation from God, and convinced people to follow them out of largely material promises of a physical afterlife.

The case of the Apostles was different.  Who they followed was a specific person who did not make promises of physical rewards.  Indeed, the Jesus they followed made clear that political liberation and wealth were not the message He was teaching.  Those who followed Him (which were more than "Twelve men" as some have misrepresented) attested to what He said and the works He performed to back them up.  These are not merely accounted for in the Gospels.  The Talmud mentions these acts, though it calls them "magic."  So do the secular Roman accounts.

Two Quadrilemma and Atheistic Claims

The problem the atheist has to address is why they hold what they hold.  We can study by breaking this down into categories.  There are two ways we can look at it: One is whether Jesus spoke truthfully and the second is whether Jesus said what was claimed.

The First Quadrilemma

The first quadrilemma is based on whether or not Jesus spoke truthfully over what He said

  1. Jesus either was what He claimed or He was not
  2. The Apostles either believed what He claimed or they did not.

This leaves us with a quadrilemma. 

  1. Jesus was what He claimed to be and the Apostles believed His claims (What the Christians believe)
  2. Jesus was not what He claimed but the Apostles believed His claims (Apostles Deluded)
  3. Jesus was not what He claimed and the apostles did not believe His claims (Apostles Lying)
  4. Jesus was what He claimed and the Apostles did not believe His claims (Apostles Lying)

Of these claims, the Christians hold #1, atheists tend to be divided over #2 and #3, and with #4 in the past some Gnostics held to it, and some New Agers hold a variant of this sort of view.

The theology of Christianity (#1) holds that Jesus was what He claimed to be and the Apostles witnessed these claims and believed.  Christian apologetics comes from this perspective, and the one seeking to understand this should look to these sources.

The Gnostic view (#4) holds that Jesus was God, but the Apostles did not believe what He really said He was.  The problem with this view is, how do they know what was claimed without the witness of those who knew Jesus personally?

This leaves us with the two remaining views which atheists claim: Jesus did not speak truthfully and the apostles were deceived about what He said and did (#2) or Jesus was not what He said He was and the apostles lied about what He said.

The problem with both assertions is: On what basis can this be held?

Let's look at #2 first.  If Jesus lied or was deluded about what He claimed, on what basis do we assert this?  Is there evidence for this claim?  Or is it based on the assumption that Jesus could not be God because there is no God.  This assertion cannot be claimed as fact without evidence.

See how the assumption that atheism must be true keeps showing up in all arguments?  Yet atheism is the conclusion.  It can't be the premise as well.  So from a logical perspective this claim cannot stand on its own until the premise (Jesus was not who He said He was) is proven true.

Of course in this case the atheist who makes this claim [and to be fair, not all do] is arguing from a universal negative.  Such a case cannot be proven true unless actual evidence is produced which attests to this.

Such is the problem with the "Deluded disciples" argument.

In case #3, we have another level of proof needed.  Not only did Jesus lie (or was deluded), but the Apostles did not believe what they were teaching.  In other words, the Apostles lied about what Jesus said and did. 

This is the case where the counterargument of cui bono? (Who benefits?) comes into play.  How did the apostles benefit from the lie?  They were not rich or powerful.  They were executed for their beliefs, hated by their own ethnic groups.

Case #3 not only has to establish that Christ was not who He said He was, but also has to establish why these "false witnesses" would rather die than recant what they lied about.

Therefore Case #3 also requires evidence to impeach the credibility of the disciples.  Yet again, the argument is based on the belief that God does not exist and seeks to find an alternate motive for the Apostles.

Ultimately, the Christians present their case for #1.  Those who hold it false need to provide their evidence for why they hold #'s 2,3 or 4.

The Second Quadrilemma

Some might find this a bit redundant, but it is necessary to investigate an alternate claim made by some atheists, and that is the claim that Jesus did not even say what the Apostles claimed He did. Again we need two divisions of two groups:

  1. Either Jesus said what is attributed to Him or they did not
  2. The disciples either understood what Jesus said or they did not

With these categories, we again have four groups:

  1. Jesus did say what is attributed to Him and the disciples understood it
  2. Jesus did say what is attributed to Him and the disciples did not understand it
  3. Jesus did not say what is attributed to Him and the Apostles understood it
  4. Jesus did not say what is attributed to Him and the Apostles did not understand it

Now in these cases, it seems the atheist dodges the horns of having to prove Christ was lying or deluded, but it does open more problems as well.

Case #1 is what Christians believe

Case #2 is not too common.  Some heresies would hold that the Church misunderstood the Bible for example and their version is accurate.

Case #3 again assumes the Apostles knew what Jesus did teach but lied about it.  (Some Muslims say this about St. Paul for example)

Case #4 is what is argued by those who claimed that Jesus had a human message but the disciples misunderstood his language (taking it over literally).  A variant of this is the Muslim claim that the Scriptures were altered and misrepresented by the Apostles who did not understand Christ was teaching Islam.

With case #1 of course, one would look to the writings of the apostles as true.  This is what Christians believe, and the defense of such a view would be found in the Christian writings.

With case #2 we have some of the early Christological heresies of the Church which held that certain biblical passages were in contradiction to what the Apostles claimed and therefore they got it wrong.  This gets into the concept of How do we interpret the New Testament?

With case #3, we have an alternate expression of the third case in the first quadrilemma: The apostles lied about what Jesus said.  Again, cui bono?  What did they gain?

In case#4, we would find most atheists who want to say that Jesus was merely misunderstood and His disciples did not understand what He was trying to say.  There are some problems with this reasoning however.

First, such a view assumes Jesus was a wise teacher, but merely misunderstood.  Yet a wise teacher seeks to make sure his students understand him before he goes on.  He does not use metaphorical language if it is clear that his students are taking it literally.

Second, such a teaching has to be taken into context of the culture: The teachings of the disciples was that Jesus Christ was God made man.  Yet to the Jews, such a view would be blasphemous, and His first disciples were Jews.  It would have been easier for a pagan to accept it than a Jew.  Yet they did either accept His claim or mistakenly thought He taught it and believed it.  How can this be reconciled, and what evidence exists for such a view?

Third: If Jesus did not teach what the Disciples claimed He taught, then what did He teach?  How can we know the disciples misunderstood what was said without evidence of what was said.  Without this, we do not have anything factual, but merely a counter-theory based on the idea that whatever Jesus was, it could not be God.

The Endless Circle

Notice how these claims all return back to the central atheistic conclusion: There is no God.  The claims made about what "really" must have happened are based on this conclusion.  But for an atheist to appeal to science or to doctored texts or falsehood or delusion as a reason to object to the Christian claim needs to demonstrate that his view has basis in fact if it is to be taken as a reasonable objection.

What it Leads To

I don't doubt some atheists will read this and think I am arguing that "atheism is false, so Christianity is true."  I am not.  Rather I am examining certain claims made by some atheists which are used to state that Christianity is "unreasonable."  In doing so, I show the logical flaws in their case and that the argument in question cannot be reasonably used against the Christian belief.

Now of course the demonstrating the flaws in the atheistic claim does not yet prove Christianity true, but it does show certain attacks against Christianity are without a solid basis and can reasonably be dismissed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dealing With Intolerance

A day after I post on the incident in Florida, I found an incident which hit closer to home in which an individual thought he would take a none too subtle swipe at Catholic beliefs in response to an article by another blogger (who is innocent here… let me make that clear).

The comment was none too insightful.  It was the usual hysterical claims from an ex-Catholic that Catholic practices are really barely disguised pagan worship contrary to the Scripture.  Ironically, this individual failed to notice that what he was calling pure Christianity was in fact a heavily culture-influenced version of early 20th century Fundamentalist Protestantism which he adopted.

I suspect such individuals tend to be converted because they do not understand what they believe, and then when confronted with an anti-Catholic challenge they assume that because they do not know the answer there is none

The question which comes to mind is how does one deal with this type of uninformed intolerance?

It cannot be silence.

One of the minor saints whose memorial is today (the major memorial is for St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine) is Saint Poemon, who once said “Silence is not a virtue when charity calls for speech.”  This is a very real issue.

There are times when I just want to throw up my hands and say “To hell with this, it isn’t worth it…”  But when calumnies are made, we must speak out for the truth, lest someone think that our silence means there is no answer.

The hysterical anti-Catholic belief holds that Catholics follow a corrupted Christianity introducing pagan customs in and making them into doctrines and dogmas.  They will make use of the post hoc fallacy, claiming that because a certain pagan culture followed certain forms and the Catholic Church followed certain forms the Catholic Church must have adopted these things from pagan culture.

In contrast, they claim they follow the Bible pure and simple as it was meant to be followed.

Now sometimes, when dealing with an individual of reason, even if disagreement remains, they will be respectful and say that even though they disagree.  The bigot will assume that everything contrary to his belief is wrong, and if you knock down one point, will move on to the next, and will never consider the possibility he misunderstands what he hates.

Quiet and reasoned discourse is the optimal response.  However, this won’t work with a verse slinger.  They operate under the principle that pagan belief X is similar to Catholic belief A.  Therefore they apply Bible verse Y to Catholic belief A and say this proves Catholic beliefs are false.

Against such a mindset, one will not convince an individual to reconsider.  All you can do is to point out the errors and hope others will not follow the anti-Catholic into the ditch.

Most importantly we can pray for them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reflections on Truth and Charity in Gainesville, FL

Source: More children from Dove World Outreach Center sent home for wearing Islam is of the Devil shirts | Gainesville.com | The Gainesville Sun | Gainesville, FL

What are we to make of the case where students were sent home from school for bearing a shirt reading “Islam is of the Devil” on it?

The question is whether this is a violation of the student’s rights or whether the school is justified.  There are two perspectives on this: From a perspective of “do unto others…” and a perspective from the belief of the truth of Jesus Christ.

From the Perspective of “Do unto others…”

I would not want to see a shirt, worn by a Fundamentalist student reading “The Pope is the anti-Christ.  Nor would I want to see one worn by a skinhead saying “Kill all Jews and Blacks.”  I would not want relatives of mine to be in a school who permitted such shirts to be worn openly

In Northern Ireland, from time to time there is some rioting which is done by certain Orangemen who march through Catholic neighborhoods posting virulently anti-Catholic invective.  The rioting of course is to be condemned.  However, there would also be no cause for riots if such behavior which sought to be offensively confronting — and it is legal for these Orangemen to march.  I think that I have a right to follow my religion free of harassment.  Now, if we would not want our faith attacked, it follows we must be charitable in how we treat people of other faiths. 

This does not mean we are being religiously indifferent of course.  Nor does it mean we cannot speak to the truth.  I believe Islam cannot be from God because it contradicts what Christ has taught us and the prophets before Christ.  However, I can be civilized and charitable in my opposition to the error of Islam.

From the Perspective of Believing in the Truth of Christ

My thinking is in whatever we do, we ought to bear witness to what we believe.  If we believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, Truth and Life we must not hide that faith but proclaim it.  However, how we proclaim it will affect how others receive it.  If I reasonably point out the errors of Islam and why one cannot hold it without denying Jesus Christ was who He said He was, and do so in a civil manner, trusting in God to touch the individuals He wills with grace, any rejection of the truth is no fault of mine.

However…

If I should go “AAAAARRGGHHH!  ALL YOU NON CHRISTIANS ARE GONNA BURN! BURN FOR YOUR EVIL DEMONIC HEATHEN WAYS!” I have not shown the truth of Christ.  I have not borne witness to the truth of Christ.  I have just provided proof of one Christian being an ignorant, bigoted idiot.  In doing so, I have perhaps turned people who might have listened to a civil discourse into thinking that this is a product of Christianity.  Doubtless I will be judged before the Lord on the last day for driving people away from the faith.

Have these youths made any converts with their shirts?  Do we think a Muslim will see this and think “Oh my!  I had better change my mind based on what I read on a T-shirt”?  Or will they decide “Christians are bigoted idiots.  We have to try harder to save them”?

So from the perspective of “doing unto others” and from the perspective of believing Jesus Christ is the way, I think the back half of that T-Shirt was a mistake.  It will not spread the Good News to others.  It will merely cause others to deafen themselves to the Good News.

When we go to spread this Good News to the world, let us remember that how we witness will have an effect on the message.