Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What I Never Learned, Part IV: Why it had to be Jesus, and why He had to die


Years ago, I sent out some "catechesis emails" to interested friends and family. They, like me, never really learned much in Catholic religious education and CCD classes (I was catechized in the 1970s and '80s). What I wrote was pretty basic stuff, and I thought some of the Bubble readers might like the overview. 



Previously, we talked about how painful it is for a soul to be separated from God, and that all of life is really a search for union with the Trinity (even though many souls are not consciously aware of what they are longing for).

From the beginning, God’s people have tried to “make things right”, attempting to heal the rift that has existed between God and man since that first sin in the Garden of Eden. The primary means to that end has been offering sacrifice.

Sacrifice is, by definition, a giving up or offering of something precious. In Old Testament days, before Jesus came, the people offered sacrifices to God in order to show them that they loved Him, to thank Him for His many gifts, and in order to make up for their sins. The thing being offered was always burnt or destroyed, to show that it was being given back to God completely. It was also the best that the person had to offer; for example, farmers would offer God the “first fruits” of their harvests, and a shepherd would give his best lamb.

Then, as today, the sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God was one offered with a pure heart, out of true love.

We've talked earlier about the nature of love, about how love must be freely given and freely received, how love must have an object, and how love is always fruitful. I will now add that true love is always sacrificial. Think of our own relationships with our family members and loved ones: We sacrifice for them, i.e., offer ourselves and our lives for them, out of love.

In the Old Testament, we often see the people offering the bloody sacrifice of animals, where the blood of an animal would be shed, then its body burnt. After a while, in Moses’ time, priests were appointed to offer the sacrifices on behalf of all God’s people.

Note: While God’s chosen people (the Hebrew people, also known as the Israelites) were offering all those sacrifices to God, the pagans were busy offering sacrifices to their false gods as well. This is natural, not surprising. Remember we said that God has left His “thumbprint” on each person’s soul, a distant “echo” of Himself? Everyone, on some level, knows that we are separated from God, and that sacrifice is needed in order to make up for our sins. Unfortunately, there were occasions when the pagans sacrificed human beings to their gods, which of course the true God never requires!

But getting back to the Hebrew people, the purpose of all these elaborate, bloody, ritualistic sacrifices was a deep longing to make up for Adam’s sin and to “build a bridge” back to God. In reality, all those millions of sacrifices were pointing to, or foreshadowing, the only Sacrifice which actually could build a bridge back to God, namely Jesus’ own offering of Himself on the Cross.

Think about it, and try to follow my logic here: To make up perfectly for the sin of Adam (i.e., to reconcile God and man perfectly), man’s sacrifice would have to be perfect. Yet, how could sinful man offer a perfect sacrifice when he himself is imperfect, and when the gift, no matter how good, is imperfect as well? The answer is that he couldn’t; it is simply impossible. Only God, Who is perfect, could provide a perfect sacrifice. So we humans really had a problem. Those millions of animal and other sacrifices just couldn’t reconcile us completely, perfectly, with God. We were still lost.

But remember! God had a plan for reconciliation all along. “In the fullness of time,” the Second Person of the Holy Trinity -- the Beloved Son -- came down from Heaven and became man. He became one of us, while remaining fully divine (thus, sinless).


Jesus alone could represent both sides!

Jesus’ Sacrifice on the Cross was the perfect offering, the likes of which no other man could present to the Father. As true man, Jesus is able to act on behalf of all mankind. As true God, the Sacrifice is utterly perfect, therefore completely acceptable to the Father. Jesus, as both Priest and Victim, offered Himself, out of pure love, in atonement for all of our sins.* His Sacrifice of love was so powerful, so beautiful, so complete, that it unleashed a torrent of grace upon the earth, which washed away the sin of Adam and redeemed the whole human race, reopening the gates of Heaven.

Perfect Love reconciled Heaven and earth, God and man.




*Why yes, this does sound like the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!






Next, read Part V: Jesus as the "Lamb of God"



131 comments:

  1. Love it, Leila. Fantastic teaching! And to go along w/ the perfect sacrifice of Christ, would be the perfection of his mother (as you know, this doesn’t mean she didn’t require a savior, but that she was saved from original sin). It took me a long time to come to understand Mary’s role and the great honor we Catholics pay to her; the theology behind it was never really explained to me. And it wasn’t until a perfect stranger made a round about jab at her that I thought I better get on the ball and see just what’s up with Mary, why always the hang up on Mary? Did God open my eyes.

    Someone once gave me this perspective while I was coming to understand the sinlessness of Mary: Do you think that our Father in Heaven would allow the enemy to have had any hold over the Mother of God, even for one instant? No. He was using a perfect vessel, who had no stain of OS, to bring forth the perfect savior clothed in her own human flesh. And she could’ve said “No.” And the Father was under no obligation to try again through someone else, so Thanks, Mother Mary, for your great obedience to the mystery!

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  2. So, God gets mad at Adam & Eve and he says "since you didn't obey me, and you think you know it all now, go live on your own. And by the way, here's disease, greed, lust, and a penchant for booze to ease all the pain I am sending you out with." Mua ha ha.

    And Adam and Eve go off to get to the begetting. They teach their kids about God, but after many generations, God becomes more and more "lost" to them and all the sin that God threw at their great-great-great, etc. grandparents for being disobedient catches up with all their progeny. Sin ensnares them.

    God gets ticked and kills everyone except Noah, his family and some animals. Then he nukes two cities when some creeps try to rape one of his angel minions. (he didn't care about the daughters, of course, just noting.)

    After awhile, it looks as if God is about to start workin' his smiting finger again, when Jesus says "Woah, Dad. I like these people. Don't kill them again." And God is all like, "Listen kid, they can never sacrifice perfectly, so forget it." And Jesus says, "Oh yeah? Well check this out!"

    God, smiling, says "you got me there, Jesus. I guess that was perfect enough. I will let them go to heaven when they die, if they meet my list of demands."

    Really? That's it?

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  3. Nope. Not at all, actually.

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  4. Leila here.

    Anon, that's quite a caricature of Christianity. What kind of serious study have you done of Catholicism or the Bible? It's a sincere question. You understand types and the senses of Scripture, etc.? Help me out...

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  5. I have to agree with anon that it is sort of strange if you think about it, doesn't mean it's not true. I don't see why a God would have people jump through all the hoops, I.e. Here is free will, don't disobey or you'll be unhappy, by the way there is a good chance all these snares in life will ruin you and I'll be mad at your choices even though I allow them. Why not cut the middle man and make us happy and smart enough to choose whats right in the first place? I can't get mad at a child that I allowed to walk in the street and get hurt. Wouldn't even a small part of that be my responsibility to the child to put up a fence or something that they couldn't climb over? It's like God doesn't even put up a fence.. strange.. and then gets upset at our stupidity for crossing it and putting ourselves in serious danger. As far as I can see most people practice religion so they can feel good about themselves and contemptuous about others. But all in all it is just lucky, if you figure it out or not, not something to hate on with people, I don't get mad at kindergarten kids because they don't know how to drive a car yet, but that's they way some Christians act about their faith... they're so proud, when instead they should feel thankful and lucky.

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  6. Yes! I finally have time to read these and am loving it. Please continue this, I am learning more from your posts on Catholicism than I ever did in RCIA. And I am totally using these as homeschooling tools if you'll let me :)

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  7. Dr. Strangelove: God doesn't want us to be His robots, we have to choose to be with Him because we want to not because we have to be. And just as a mother will do her best to protect her children from all harm, God does the same. We have to be open to His graces in order to receive that protection. We receive these protective graces through the sacraments.

    And we all at times lack humility, not just Christians. It is why God has given us the sacraments.

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  8. *forgive me for misspelling your name. I meant Dr. Stranglove.

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  9. TW, exactly! Dr. S, you are correct that Christians should be the most thankful and humble of all, for having the truth. Spiritual pride is a dangerous sin. I have a post in draft on that very subject! I hope to get it out soon.

    And, just to reiterate what TW said: If God gave us no choice or free will to love Him and choose the good, then we would be His slaves. He doesn't want slaves, He wants loving children. I don't duct tape my kids to the chair in order to stop them from choosing to hit their siblings. Do you think it would be wise if I did? Of course not. We love them enough to teach them right from wrong (God gave us the "boundaries" of the moral law), and then we hope they choose love and not rebellion and defiance. But if they never have that choice, then they are slaves, and they cannot love. Free will is the greatest gift, and one that God will not touch. The nature of love (which must be freely given, or it is not love) demands it.

    Also, remember: Adam and Eve had perfect integrity of body and soul. They did not have to sin. They chose to. Sin is the misuse of freedom.

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  10. Anon, I could read your comment and go with my more base and snarky instincts and say:

    "What??! I never realized how stupid Christianity is until you pointed all that out! That's it, I'm done with this silly religion. Thanks for showing me how it really is, anon. I never knew." {shakes head sadly and walks out of Christianity}

    It's more like this (short version)…

    God loves us and created us for union with Him, and divinization.
    God wants our love, He doesn't need slaves.
    When man (who had a working intellect and will) chose to separate himself from God, bad things happened.
    Let me repeat: When we are separated from God, bad things happen.
    Sin is yucky.
    We long for God; the separation is excruciating (mostly on our hearts, which are always restless till they rest in Him)
    God never gave up on us, and even sent His only Son to reconcile us with Himself.
    "No greater love hath man than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."
    Jesus laid down His life for us.
    That is love.
    We are redeemed.
    We just need to love Him back.

    It's the best deal in the universe.

    And for Dr. S, I hope you will read C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. He addresses your points better than I ever could.

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  11. "But all in all it is just lucky, if you figure it out or not, not something to hate on with people, I don't get mad at kindergarten kids because they don't know how to drive a car yet, but that's they way some Christians act about their faith... they're so proud, when instead they should feel thankful and lucky."

    Dr. Stranglove, it has been my experience that many Christians DO feel thankful and lucky, and want to share their happiness with those who haven't found life's fulfillment yet. However, to most people who have not made peace with God, the religious' attitude LOOKS proud and holier than thou. That is the irony. We aren't proud, we have come to realize our need for God, that something greater than ourselves. It doesn't take pride, it takes humility.

    Also, your comment makes it sound like humans don't know right from wrong. We do. It is not the same as a child who does not know how to drive. We know what we should and should not do. Ignoring this fact and embracing a life of sin is not an excuse.
    Manda

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  12. Leila,
    This is great and something I don't think children can wrap their minds around. I remember thinking as a child, "but why did he have to die for us?"

    It's not until you understand love for what it REALLY is and not what your own ideas of it were that you can understand what Jesus did...how much he loved us. Can we truly understand love in it's fullness apart from God? Methinks no.
    Manda

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  13. Should be Dr. 'StrangeLove', see I made an error. but how is that even possible in a universe that works toward perfection? Unless something is wrong with certain mistakes, and I see that God included the possibility for them in creation, so there must be a reason for them, so even mistakes are not mistakes entirely. Unless you're saying that you know how things are supposed to be more than God knows. Unless you are also saying that, you saying that, or me saying that, is also a mistake. Who gets to say what is correct and a mistake in the long run anyway? Why?

    But explain this...

    Why is there right AND wrong.

    (The robot logic doesn't hold water, if God is all powerful then at best we are robots, because His will, will be done, there is nothing besides that so everything is working towards His will regardless of our best or worst intent, therefore our intent is mute and we are carrying out His plan regardless. Right? (Am I missing something? We are sheep right? not shepherds.)

    Why not just make right and stop there?

    Did/do people have the power to make wrong in the first place, are we blaming people for this? Is it even blame? If their is wrong and it is a possibility then why does a God get so upset (if He is in fact upset) when he created the possibility? That part is not explained very well. It doesn't sound like free anything if you are given two or more choices and all but one is wrong. Hang up freedom and just make it right if wrong is so horrendous. Are you saying people have a power that even God does not (want to perhaps) possess (I.e. to do wrong?)

    Even if I played god with my own little computer world and created a virtual ocean, then a virtual shark, then some virtual fish and then a virtual hungry man... then pressed the "GO" button and the man jumped in the water to catch a fish to eat and was eaten by the shark, I could get mad at the results, I mean, that's my prerogative but it wouldn't it seem strange to some outside observer seeing me yelling at my own directives? Couldn't they come up to me and say, "Hay, how come you put the shark in there?" or "Why don't you just make the fish jump on to the beach when the man is hungry" or , "I don't see why you're angry with the hungry man guy anyway he is just doing what he thought was right, you need to take away all the wrong possibilities if you want it to work differently all the time."

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  14. "Should be Dr. 'StrangeLove', see I made an error. but how is that even possible in a universe that works toward perfection? Unless something is wrong with certain mistakes, and I see that God included the possibility for them in creation, so there must be a reason for them, so even mistakes are not mistakes entirely. Unless you're saying that you know how things are supposed to be more than God knows. Unless you are also saying that, you saying that, or me saying that, is also a mistake. Who gets to say what is correct and a mistake in the long run anyway? Why?"



    Dr. Strangelove,

    A few things: Are you saying that you can't know when you've made a mistake? Do you not think that mistakes exist in order to learn and grow from them?

    Also, the world will never be perfect as long as sin exists. We can work toward perfection all we can, but in the end we will not achieve it as long as sin has a hold on our flesh--and if we are not submitting our whole selves to the will of God all the time bodily perfection is an unattainable dream. 3 things matter: Faith, hope, and love. To hold onto these three in this life until this life is taken from us are our lifelines.

    In order for something to be wrong (or sinful) there has to be knowledge and intent. We know that we shouldn't kill people because it's wrong.

    God's will is that all will come to know and love Him. Yet not everyone does. We have a choice--to choose to respond to God's call, or to say "no" to God and go about our life, our way.

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  15. But anon please explain why there is a choice to be made in the first place. Couldn't it just be "Here is everything, everything is good. so Go!" why is there also bad and why is there a choice to be made.

    Saying that what is, is, doesn't explain it to me really.( Why is the sky blue? It reflects the ocean, OK then why is the ocean blue? It reflects the sky...)

    Can you explain why a choice is even necessary? If everything but the correct choice is bad then why have the bad things? I don't understand why choice and evil are even necessary unless it is only there so we get to feel good about other people getting it wrong, which is also a bad thing apparently.

    Someday in the future according to Jesus, I believe, the bad things will be taken away, which begs the question, why were they there in the first place?

    In the future there will be a place where there is more happiness than you could ever imagine and a hell worse than you can stand even for a second, but if that is what is going to happen, why not just take the good stuff and throw out the bad and bad choices, I'd take a robotic heaven for eternity over a free will that could get me in trouble or one that could make me stumble into hell.

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  16. That’s not why the sky is blue nor why the ocean is blue. Getting to the point, though, a choice is necessary because the Lord gave us free will under free love. “Bad things” happen because of the fall of man, see Leila’s other posts on this.

    We certainly can and should “take the good stuff and throw out the bad and bad choices” all while we live freely for Christ.
    Robotic living? Is that really what you want? What joy or real love would be shared in that kind of stifled, non self-controlled living? Wouldn’t you rather be free to love or not to love, even if it sounds risky or intimidating? Indeed, you have the choice, as you are a creature with free will.

    By the way, God does not leave us orphans. He didn’t put us here with no direction. He gave us ample direction and, if you’re baptized, you have the Triune God living in you. So, you have the power to rise above the '”bad and bad choices”, most times it’s tough, but it’s free. And it’s the only real definition of love there is. And if you’re Confirmed in the faith, even more power to you. You can call on those graces, as that’s truly God’s power alive in your immortal soul and it’s there just so that you may more and more resemble He who first loved you.

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  17. Dr. S,

    No one (and I mean no one "stumbles into hell". Hell is a choice. In order for a sin to be mortal, one must commit a serious sin, one must understand that it's a serious sin, and one must commit the sin with full consent of the will.

    So, no one "accidentally" ends up in Hell. I hope that eases your mind a bit.

    Second, you are thinking of evil as something "substantive". It is not. It is a privation of good. It is the absence of good. It has no substance in itself. If we walk away from good by choice, then we have what we call "evil". But all evil is simply the absence of good.

    Choosing sin is not a "power" it is an absence of goodness. God cannot be anything other than good, since He is Goodness. To say that He is not "powerful" because He cannot choose evil is, in the literal sense, "nonsense". It doesn't make sense. A circle cannot be a square. To say that a circle can be a square is "nonsense". God is Goodness. To say that Goodness can be evil is "nonsense". God is not the author of nonsense. He cannot be other than His nature.

    Being "able" to do "nonsense" would not make Him more powerful. It would make Him not God.

    Also, don't forget that we have the gift of Revelation. As Nubby said: He did not leave us orphans. He gave us all (every one of us) the grace sufficient to get to Heaven. We have to consciously reject Him and His Truth in order to choose Hell (we choose separation from Him, He does not choose it for us).

    As for the choice we are given (free will), think of it this way:

    Let's say you fell in love with the most wonderful woman. If she were "forced" to love you back (had absolutely no choice), how is that love? And would you want that? A robot for a wife?

    We all crave love. We want to love and be loved. But without a choice to give and receive love, it's not love. God gave us the dignity to have the choice to love. He made us persons, like Him, not robots. And there is an inherent danger in freedom, as we always have the possibility to reject Love.

    Obviously we humans understand the risk and yet we take it anyway, even in our own little lives. Everyone who gets married or loves anyone is at risk of being hurt and left cold. But we want love anyway. If we didn't have the choice to love, then who would we be? What would we be?

    A question for you: What is the nature of love?

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  18. "You will say to me then, "Why [then] does he still find fault? For who can oppose his will?" But who indeed are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Will what is made say to its maker, "Why have you created me so?" Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for a noble purpose and another for an ignoble one? What if God, wishing to show his wrath and make known his power, had endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction? This was to make known the riches of his glory to the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared previously for glory, namely, us whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles.-Romans 9:19-24

    The basic biblical principle is: those who will not see or hear shall not see or hear. On the other hand, the same God who thus makes stubborn or hardens a heart can recontruct it through the work of the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul is also responding to the objection that you bring up, Dr. Strangelove, regarding God finding fault if he has made the world both right and wrong.

    His answer is less an explanation of God's ways than the rejection of an argument that places humanity on a level with God. At the same time, Paul shows that God is far less arbitrary than appearances suggest, for God endures with much patience a person like the Pharaoh of the Exodus.

    Your questions have all been asked, and answered. If only you would seek, you would find.

    And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.-John 8:32 :)

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  19. Dr. S, I just discovered that my friend Lisa answered some of your points in a post of her own, FYI:

    http://lisagraas.com/2011/07/07/are-people-of-faith-just-jumping-through-hoops/

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  20. Yes, it may be the Truth, but why, can no one can answer why?

    I still don't get it, it seems sort of silly to make something that can have two or more outcomes and then get upset (I don't know if God actually gets upset, I most certainly am not anywhere near knowing what or the the why of His actions) at the other outcomes.

    If I had the power to make a person and make that person my wife, I think I would *make* the person love me, but I could allow them to not love me also, but I don't know if any one way would have more meaning than the other, any way you look at it I created the outcome, I created the good and the bad parts and the neutral parts. I made it be, so I know the outcomes. The person was not actually free either way if I created all the freedom and outcomes, then I own that as well. Why not just make her love me, how is that any less meaningful especially if she has to suffer if she refuses to love me? How is the suffering meaningful to me if she refuses, why would I allow that to happen what end does it serve?

    I guess that no one can answer the why? A powerful God of love has a strange world somewhere in the middle of all His plans where things are hidden from me (not deliberately perhaps, but there is the possibility of confusion and getting separated from Him) I don't understand that at all. What is the purpose? If there is a correct way then why is there difficulties involved in understanding it? Why have or allow the difficulties?

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  21. Dr S, there is no answer to your question until you understand the nature of love. So, I ask you again, "What is the nature of love?"

    You really need to answer that question first, and then we can go from there.

    (By the way, God does not touch our free will. It is solely ours. He certainly knows what we will choose, but He does not determine it. There is a difference between God's active will and His permissive will, and maybe that is something you are confused about?)

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  22. I'm not sure that anyone who doesn't believe in God will ever be satisfied with answers that we try to give on this subject, simply because they are trying to understand something that is humanly impossible to understand.

    This isn't to say that I don't think it's worth talking about or even trying to explain; but Dr.Strangelove puts us in an impossible position--to explain God. Exactly how far can we go on this subject? Will he or anyone else out there that questions our faith ever be satisfied?

    All of us are in different areas of our faith, some of us understand more than others, and others have the gift to teach while the rest of us should be content to just learn.

    My answer to you I predict will be too simplistic, but here it is. God is simply perfect. He is divine. He loves us in a way that we do not or will not ever be able to comprehend.

    Love does not force or control. It doesn't "make" things happen. I think the question that you have really boils down to God's love. Why didn't He just plan things out so that there was never sin? Why couldn't He just make things happen the way He wanted it to? Why not just make things perfect from the beginning?

    Because that's not love,and God is love.

    Now the question should not be stuck at why didn't God just do this and that in the beginning, but maybe the question should be steered into the direction of God's immense love for us. Because you will see then, how this all comes back to full circle, about free will, about sin, about how God's love saved us from our sin.

    Simple, I know. But the truth usually is.

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  23. I just wanted to add one more thing.

    I am not at all gifted at explaining or teaching. I worry constantly that I will somehow misrepresent the Church and cause someone else confusion.

    For this reason, Dr.S or anybody might find this link helpful: http://www.fatheraltier.excerptsofinri.com/

    Fr.Altier is a well-known priest in the diocese of MN. He is extremely gifted in explaining the faith in a way that is so easy to understand. If you truly want your question answered, go to this link. It is a Catholicism that teaches and explains all the teachings of the Church. Will you agree or believe? I guess that will be up to you to decide, because as I said before, no one can ever totally satisfy you unless you are open to the truth.

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  24. I'm sorry to keep going on here, but I just tried that link and it didn't work. I did find a paragraph from one of Fr.Altier's homilies that pertains to this question, perhaps this might be more helful:

    "Why does God allow Satan even to exist, let alone to give us trouble? Why does God allow us to sin? Why does God allow painful and even bad things to happen in people’s lives? This is a mystery, and a very difficult mystery for us to deal with; yet, in all of our lives it is a reality. But if we can begin to understand that He is allowing this so we can become saints, that oftentimes as we grow in holiness it is the very worst thing we have ever done that oftentimes becomes the greatest means for humility and for fidelity to God, that when we realize just how awful we can be, it is that which actually helps us to get on track and to stay there because we know what we are capable of. When we see how God brings good out of all the evil that we ourselves give into, it is then that we can understand how He allows these things; not because He wants them, but because these are the means by which we will become saints. They actually become the means by which we can serve Him better when we repent of what we have done or when we accept the evil that falls upon us. It is in accepting those things that we are able to serve Him better, with greater virtue and with greater holiness.

    When we see the injustice and the evil, and we wonder why, all we need to do is look at the Cross. Look at, from a human perspective, the greatest injustice and the greatest evil ever done; and yet, from God’s perspective, see the greatest act of love, the greatest act of justice, the greatest act of good that has ever been performed for humanity. And when we wonder why, the answer is on the Cross."

    For the complete homily and other homilies by Fr.Altier, click on this link:

    http://desertvoice.excerptsofinri.com/text/2004/Alti121504.htm

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  25. Becky, that was all extremely well-said. It really is about a relationship (a love relationship) with Jesus Christ, above all. Spend time with Jesus, read the gospels, pray for Him to reveal Himself to you (and trust that he will)...let all else go, and the answers will come, along with great peace.

    But you are right, Becky, that nothing will satisfy unless one's heart is open.

    One last thought: If you want to have a book on your shelf which answers the specifics (all the "hard sayings") then get Kreeft and Tacelli's Handbook of Catholic Apologetics.

    And, that website sounds great, Becky!

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  26. My son said "God is all-knowing, right?", and then he said "God is all-loving, right?" to both I answered yes. Then he asked how God...who already KNOWS which of his children will turn away from him and spend eternity in hell...could let that child exist if he REALLY is all-loving.

    He wanted to know what kind of love would allow a person to suffer for eternity. I tried to explain that free will allows everyone the opportunity to be with God, to which my son said "But God already knows who will or will not choose Him and still creates those who will be separated from Him and suffer for eternity." And I get it, to my son, that hardly seems like love. And I still haven't been able to talk him all the way through this one.

    Katie

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  27. We did answer you, Dr. Strangelove. Because God wants us to come to Him FREELY!

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  28. but,but,but... it is not free, you are saying that God created something (free will) that exists outside of his bounds (like a rock He couldn't lift) Then we have to choose. If it was a choice like love or not to love (say like asking a woman to love me) If the person didn't love me then I would burn them forever in eternity? How is that free? If they love me then nice things are going to happen that wouldn't happen otherwise? How is that free? If it were free then there would be neither punishment nor reward or at least no one would get bent out of shape if I choose one over the other. That's more like freedom. I can point a gun at a person and say love me or else, but that doesn't seem free to me. I just saying. Two or more outcomes and all but one is bad and wrong is not free. Like in physics, if an object is free to move in any direction then one of the directions couldn't be bad or evil. I don't understand your definition of freedom. If there were freedom then judgement would be out of the question. If a woman didn't love me and that is how she freely feels then what is my judgement to her if I think she should love me?

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  29. By the way, that's how a woman actually felt about me. Is she going to hell? Christ said love one another as He loved us. (I'm not talking about romance just love as friendship) This woman did not love me, I can assure you, nor did she love me as Christ loved me. Is hell awaiting her? Is hell awaiting me for not loving her as Christ loved me? Why does it only work against me here if that is the case?

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  30. and here is another train of thought...

    I sort of sounds like you're saying, that the most important thing to God from him to us and from us to him is sincerity, that is, he is free to love and we are free to love so it is real, otherwise it is either contrived or forced, both are bad.

    But one of the most profound things I experience in Christian gatherings is people's insincerity, people hiding their flaws and putting on a smile even though they may be tired or upset with life and each other, if sincerity is so important then why don't we have the airing of the grievances during all Church gatherings?

    ( see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festivus )

    Why is there so much phony stuff going on with Church people? I mean the sort of actions people do publicly is completely contradictory compared to what they say and do in private. I know because I am one who does this and I know others have done this when they take their mask off and act real. Why do people say religion is what you do when no one is watching?

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  31. Again, I think you are missing the big point: Those is hell do not WANT to be with God. They have chosen separation. To force them to be with a God they reject is not "loving". If a woman leaves you, she is separated from you, by her own choice. Freedom is glorious, and it is a risk, as well. The alternative is slavery. Or being puppets on a string. Not loving.

    Hypothetical: If my son goes off the rails and decides to leave behind all that we taught him and begin to do drugs and get into a life of crime, and use people and do great harm, does that mean I don't love him anymore? No, I still love him. I ache for him. But do I force him to do the right thing? How could I? He is free to make his moral choices. To the extent that he knows right from wrong, he is culpable. Where he does not understand, he is not culpable. The consequences which follow are often painful, as they should be when someone is acting against his own humanity, his own dignity. The pain serves as a warning. A good parent never wills the bad outcome of her child, but freedom and love demand that people are free to make their own choices. Free to love and free to not love.

    I don't believe you answered the question about the nature of love. And I don't think I understand how freedom could be freedom if all choices are equal. We must be free to choose hell, or our love and choices are meaningless. God does not "damn us" so much as He judges rightly that we have chosen to be separate from Him. Some say that those in Hell would be in greater agony if they had to be with the God they hate, for all eternity, so Heaven would be worse for them. Some say that the same warm, bright fire of love which are blissful to those in Heaven is the same fire of God's love which feels so painful in Hell. Those who reject God's love do not want His love.

    Katie, how old is your son? If he is in his teens or up, please get him the book, Handbook of Catholic Apologetics. It speaks of the problem of evil, and the problem of an omniscient, loving God and people in Hell. It speaks of it clearly and socratically. Also, C.S. Lewis books deal with those subjects clearly, thoroughly. These are not new questions, and Aquinas and the saints have also discussed and written volumes on such questions.

    There is nothing unloving in a Father giving His children absolutely every grace, and every mercy that they need to get to Heaven. Giving someone a choice to love, instead of creating them as puppets, is not unloving. He knows who will choose what (as He is outside of time and lives in the "eternal now"), but He has in no way made that choice for them. Each person decides for himself. Again, what is the nature of love? Ask your son. Is it loving if you chained him and forced him to do your bidding?

    And as a mother, I know there is a chance that each of my kids will turn from the good and do evil. Even horrible evil. Should I never have had children? Or is life always good? We Christians believe that life is always good. God is always good. And everyone of us has more than a fighting chance to be good, as we were made to be. But freedom does require, and love requires, that we be able to choose something other than good.

    By the way, Dr. S, to say that "God cannot make a rock he cannot lift" is another of the "God can't make a square circle" arguments. Remember, God is not the author of nonsense.

    Anyway, there is so much out there that answers these questions, much better than I can here. Check out Kreeft and Tacelli's book. Check out C.S. Lewis, and Aquinas (or those who have brought him down to a lower level, which is the stuff I need, ha ha).

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  32. I found this at a forum on Catholic Answers. Perhaps it will help, Katie?


    what kind of "love" is it when it is given under threat of eternal torture? If my child refuses to love me or chooses a lifestyle I disapprove of, would people think it would be all right for me to barbarically torture them? Would people see me as worthy of worship?

    [Answer:] God doesn't "barbarically torture" anyone. God's love for the damned is experienced as fire; i.e., there is nothing of those spirits of the damned that can correspond and respond to love, and so God's overwhelming love must necessarily be experienced as eternal fire and torment. Perhaps another way to express this is to consider Scripture's words that "our God is a consuming fire" - in order to survive in and find joy and salvation in that fire one has to himself become one with the fire of Divine Love - this the damned cannot do because they have no desire to love God.
    __________________
    Frances

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  33. Dr. S, no! I don't think it's wrong to "force" oneself to try to do the right thing! That is called practicing the virtues! Sometimes, oftentimes, is is hard to love well. Just because we fail to do it right, and just because we don't always live up to our (and God's standards) doesn't mean we are "insincere". I sincerely try to love well, and yet I fall. God understands this! It's in no way insincere to fall when we are trying to walk to God. God gave us every possible help and back-up, in the forms of the sacraments (including confession) and all the grace we need (actual and sanctifying grace), and infinite mercy. (INFINITE!)

    I don't think "sincerity" in the way you mean it has anything to do with why or when we fall.

    If someone is deliberately lying about loving God, then they have a problem. But if someone sincerely loves God, then even if they fall, they get right back up and God welcomes them in love and mercy!

    If I fail to show my husband "perfect" love at every moment, does that mean I don't sincerely love him? Of course not! I can sincerely love someone and yet still not be perfect. There are stages of holiness, as I wrote about in a previous post. As long as we are on the path, as long as we are in a state of grace, then even in our imperfections, we are in a love relationship with the Lord. It is only in the deliberate rejection of God's love that we fall off the path. (And yet, He stands ready till the last second to welcome us back. Read the story of the Prodigal Son.)

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  34. But God can make things that are nonsense. Like light for example. Is it a thing like a particle in space or is like a wave going over the ocean, I.e. part of something else that moves over or through something? Guess what!? It is both. Please explain how that is not nonsense?

    Drinking someones blood eating their flesh, even some of the disciples thought this was crazy at first.

    But in the Gospel there was a passage where God told one group of people, you are going to heaven and they said but when did we see you hungry or tired or naked or poor or in jail? and there was the other group who said, but I proclaimed your name to everyone at Church, but I didn't see you hungry or naked or tired or in jail or stricken by poverty and he says Go Away! I do not know you! It doesn't sound like the later had chosen to go to hell. In fact it sounds like they were very religious and trying to be righteous. It sounds more complicated than rejecting God outright, are there other ways?

    Why was it that very 'Churchy' people had somehow rejected God? It seems like they had freely chosen God as they thought Him to be. It sounds more complicated than choice.

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  35. But one of the most profound things I experience in Christian gatherings is people's insincerity, people hiding their flaws and putting on a smile even though they may be tired or upset with life and each other,

    Dr. S, I want to recommend a non-Catholic source on this: Dennis Prager talks a lot about the moral obligation to be cheerful around others. I agree! It is morally wrong to put on a frown and complain all the time to others. How is that a good thing? Love is willing the good of the other, so how is it willing the good of the other to make the other listen to your whining at every turn? Putting on a smile for folks is a virtuous thing! It means you care about their peace and comfort and happiness.

    Prager wrote a book called Happiness is a Serious Problem which I recommend. He also does a weekly "happiness hour" on his radio show. Excellent.

    Don't get stuck thinking that "sincerity" means "complaining and acting like an ass because life is hard". That is not a virtue!

    One of the saints has said, "God save us from sour-faced saints". And, Mother Teresa told her sisters (and novices) that they need not join her order if they did not have a ready and constant smile to give those whom they served.

    Can you imagine if I greeted my husband every morning and every day after work with a sneer or a complaint? How on earth is that the loving thing to do?

    I think you know that that is not how love is defined, and that sincerity (which is not the same as love!!!) does not require us to be nasty and ugly when we "feel" nasty and ugly.

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  36. Dr. S, you are all over the place, now. I wish I could sit you down in my living room, but I can't (and I haven't had breakfast).

    Look: God reads hearts. We don't. He knows who loves and who doesn't. He is perfect Love, perfect Mercy, perfect Justice. Leave the judging of others to Him. People are complicated, situations are complicated, emotions are complicated. But principles and Truths are not. Let Him work out the details of the goings on in the hearts of all sinners ("churchy" or not). All you need to worry about is that you love Him. That your heart is humble and that you are obedient. That is all.

    As for light particles, etc…. That is not "nonsense"! It is reasonable and sound. Just because we don't fully comprehend things that are above our reason doesn't mean they are against reason! This is a crucial point!!

    God cannot act against His nature, and He cannot be the author of nonsense.

    He made the wonders of the universe, and your finite brain cannot comprehend it all. And yet you can still see that it is reasonable, even if it's above what your finite brain can know.

    But to say that God can make a square circle, or that he could make a rock that He can't lift (how could the infinite not be able to control the finite? How could the Creator not be in control of His creation?), or that God could be "not God" by sinning (which is against His nature)…. now that is nonsense. Literally, non-sense. I really do hope you can see the distinction.

    It's like saying I could be an alligator. Nonsense.

    I strongly urge you to invest in the Kreeft and Tacelli book, Handbook of Catholic Apologetics. Aristotelean logic. Very thorough.

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  37. http://www.amazon.com/Ignatius-Catholic-Study-Bible-Testament/dp/1586172506/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1310137494&sr=1-1-spell

    I also strongly urge you to get the new Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. It has footnotes on everything in the NT so that you can understand those passages.

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  38. Why is there so much phony stuff going on with Church people? I mean the sort of actions people do publicly is completely contradictory compared to what they say and do in private. I know because I am one who does this and I know others have done this when they take their mask off and act real. Why do people say religion is what you do when no one is watching?
    ---------
    Gotta be careful, here. If you’re referring to people acting nice at Mass, but inferring that’s now how they really are, you should be cautioned against that.

    People go to Mass with a lot on their plate. You don’t know what people are going through. Some people are suffering physically, emotionally, etc. Rising above ourselves is what we’re asked to do. People are not perhaps acting phony as much as they’re trying their best to be decent. It’s the charitable thing to do.

    If you say to someone you hardly know at church, “how are you?” and they begin to give you a laundry list of their person problems, it would not be charitable or decent of them to do so.

    If however, you know a friend at church and you know they’re going through something, you’d be nice to offer your friendship in place of judging their smile as false.

    If you mean that you feel you cannot be your true self (as you say above) with others because you’re living in a way that outright embraces sin and then cannot be honest with your fellow church-goers, then the teaching of the Church would urge you to do what we Catholics call an examination of conscience, and from there Confession.

    And to your last line, I always heard the saying was “character is what shows when no one is watching”, not “religion”.

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  39. Katie here...You know, I will get my hands on those books Leila. Thank you. I probably shouldn't have engaged in the discussion because I've got a house full of kids today...no time to formulate my thoughts...and I'll be able to read comments more thoroughly later.

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  40. Katie, I totally understand, ha ha! For the record, my oldest son really appreciated the Kreeft book when he had some deep question. The great news is, there is no question that has not been asked of the Church throughout the millennia. The answers are accessible, and they range from very basic, to deeply profound. Wherever a soul is at.

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  41. I guess I am talking about phony in this sense.

    A religious person says to me, they care about me and I am important to them. Then later that person is asked by a close friend or spouse how they actually feel about me and since they are not up in front of the clergy the person says "I really don't have time to care for them at all, I don't really care or love them actually, even though I should".

    I think that was related to free will.

    It would be free will that they really do not 'have' to care and it is free will that they actually don't and our free will is there so God's love and their love in genuine. Since it is only genuine if you can say 'No' but you say 'Yes'.

    That is the most important aspect of creation apparently.

    So if people are not sincere then I don't know what they hope to accomplish through religion if sincerity is the reason that love is actually love and God created the universe. Going to religious meetings and knowing all the rules and having 'approved' friends and 'approved' thoughts can be the opposite of love or at least far from it, I suppose, if it is all an act or a show or you are only in it for selfish reasons (vanity, pride) underneath the facade.

    Which is the greater charity? Honesty or keeping up appearances? Which demands more of ourselves to God and neighbor? Surprisingly, People can be honest and decent at the same time without being pretentious. (It makes me think of the Beverly Hillbillies and their cement pond for some reason) If you don't want to do something or don't like something you can say you don't like that and don't want to do that. Like I don't like that Sunday is referred to as an obligation, I don't like that wording, could you please say a Holy day of 'opportunity' or a Holy 'gift' of mass or you are welcome and necessary.

    And here is what really burns me to the core if we are talking about why God made us and being genuine in our love. I don't like people who say a lot of prayers, have Jesus and anti-abortion bumper stickers, dangle a Rosary in their rear view mirrors, get in your face about your sins but then don't have time to sit still and be your friend and have a real conversation for 5 or 10 minutes of their time and let down their facade and share something honest, true and vulnerable about themselves, everything they do is uncharitable if it is all for them to look good for the other members of the Church.

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  42. Katie here. As humans we don't KNOW that our children will choose to live good lives but we know that the possibility exists. So yes, life is good and it's worth it. However, God already knows the outcome of each and every soul and while I'm not suggesting puppets...I think my son's question is WHY bring into existence those that He knows will suffer (due to their own choices) for eternity.

    He sincerely wants to know why God creates us, gives us 70 years of life (plus or minus) to grow to love and worship Him (..or not) and then an ETERNITY based on those 70 years. Why not just zap us straight to heaven? Why the time here on Earth?

    And, Yes, I realize that all of these questions have been asked and answered over the millenia...Just not by me! My faith came about in a different way than my son's and so because of him I'm being forced to ponder things that for me weren't necessary to bring me to a relationship with Christ. I've got my work cut out for me!

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  43. Katie, exactly right that each of us has a different way of finding our way to God. Some hear His voice in Truth, some in Beauty, some in Goodness, some in Unity or Oneness, etc. We all get there in different ways, but it's all the same God drawing us, uniquely.

    I guess I would say that every personal being (even the angels, who have higher intelligence than we do) had to be given a choice. Even they had to choose love or not. There is no way around the fact that if He didn't let us choose, then we would not be free persons capable of love (which we were made for!), but merely puppets or slaves.

    So, even those who were in Heaven originally (the angels, a third of whom chose to follow Lucifer out of Heaven) had to choose love. Love is a choice. Also, Adam and Eve lived in Paradise. Heaven and earth were one. They also had to choose. So, earth was not meant to be this fallen place. But without choice, we cannot love. By its nature, love must be chosen.

    How old is your son? Amy Welborn's "Prove It" series is also great for teens. You should google those. Good stuff. I like kids who wrestle with this stuff, as they often become the best Christians. :)

    Definitely get those books (the previous ones I mentioned) on your shelf.

    You sound like a fabulous mom!

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  44. "God's love for the damned is experienced as fire; i.e., there is nothing of those spirits of the damned that can correspond and respond to love, and so God's overwhelming love must necessarily be experienced as eternal fire and torment."

    Say I die tomorrow and go to hell (which I would under Catholicism, right? If not, then ignore the rest of this). First of all, there's nothing about me that can correspond and respond to love, despite everything good I have done? But God still loves me (even though there's nothing lovable, which doesn't make sense), and that "love" is experienced as torment? I could never buy this - if someone burns for an eternity an otherwise decent person who made the mistake of committing a sin they didn't even think was a sin (in my case, not believing in God), then that isn't love by any definition. That's hate.

    But then earlier, you said this: "Hell is a choice. In order for a sin to be mortal, one must commit a serious sin, one must understand that it's a serious sin, and one must commit the sin with full consent of the will." Does that mean that atheists who don't understand that disbelief in God is a sin don't go to hell? (I assume, rightly I hope, that "understand" is taken to mean "understand why and believe" and not just "have heard before.")

    I'm with Dr. Strangelove here. Of course, we all have choices, but is it really a choice if one end is perfectly good and the other end is perfectly evil? The analogy to forcing someone to love you at gunpoint seems apt - of course, you can always choose not to love the person, but then it's not really a choice.

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  45. Michelle - if you died today, whether or not you would go to Hell is solely up to God alone. No Catholic can make a judgement on the state of another's soul. We can only speak objectively, in hypothetical terms, not subjectively, in terms of individual souls.

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  46. Dr. S, it sounds like you've been hurt by Christians. This is not a failure of Christianity, it's a failure of humans who are fallible and broken. Your job is to love them anyway, even when they fail you. And God will make you holy. It's always about you and God, ultimately. I do encourage you to read C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. He speaks to some of what frustrates you.

    Remember, our role models in Christianity are the saints. That is why they are canonized publicly, so that we can know what true holiness looks like in the real world, with real people. We look to them, we are inspired by them. Even when those around us fail us (as we fail others).

    In the words of Chesterton: "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."

    You can be the Christian that you wish others were. You can be the next saint, as we were all called to be.

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  47. Dr. S, check out this:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2010/08/it-changed-my-life-and-blew-my-mind.html

    and this:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2010/08/part-ii-file-this-under-why-havent-i.html

    The Church is here, the sacraments are here, the grace needed is here, to make us holy. And for no other reason. Others may cause scandal with their sins, but we are all sinners. And we need to keep our eyes on Christ, and perfect our own virtues.

    Blessings!

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  48. ...who made the mistake of committing a sin they didn't even think was a sin...

    Michelle, no one can mortally sin "by mistake". One must understand the serious nature of the sin (and the sin must truly be serious in the first place) and then the person has to persist willfully in that sin.

    So, can someone commit what is objectively a grave and serious sin, and yet have little or even no culpability for it? Yes. And only God can know if that person is culpable or not, as only God can read souls. Never could I tell you, or any atheist, that if you died right now you would go to hell. Never could I say that, and neither does the Church.

    We all do have (and our born with) the obligation to seek the truth. We are more or less culpable depending on how diligently we seek, how much we love, how open our hearts are, how formed (or ill-formed) our consciences are, etc.

    In the end, we will not be shocked or wondering why we ended up where we did, or why our friends and family did. All will be known and understood, and justice and mercy will have prevailed, perfectly. Complete justice and infinite mercy.

    Does that help?

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  49. The analogy to forcing someone to love you at gunpoint seems apt - of course, you can always choose not to love the person, but then it's not really a choice.

    And yet this is exactly the opposite of what is true. To force everyone to love against their will (no choice, no freedom) is like forcing someone to love you at gunpoint. Except worse, because then you are a puppet or a slave.

    Think of a family. A son can leave the most loving parents in the world, and go out to his own destruction. Of his own free will. Is it the parents' fault that he chose destruction? Was the offering of love and warmth and goodness and support and happiness like holing a gun to his head? Or was the choice completely the son's?

    God does not touch our free will. He gives us every means to come back to Him. He made us free. That is a gift, not a curse. Only one who wishes to do evil, and chooses to run from Love, will end up separated from Him. Free will is a gift, and even the damned (who want no part of God) understand that.

    Again, it comes back to: what is the nature of love?

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  50. And here is what really burns me to the core if we are talking about why God made us and being genuine in our love. I don't like people who say a lot of prayers, have Jesus and anti-abortion bumper stickers, dangle a Rosary in their rear view mirrors, get in your face about your sins but then don't have time to sit still and be your friend and have a real conversation for 5 or 10 minutes of their time and let down their facade and share something honest, true and vulnerable about themselves, everything they do is uncharitable if it is all for them to look good for the other members of the Church.

    Dr. S, have you ever thought that perhaps the reason they don't sit down with you and talk and be honest is because they're treated with such bitterness and disdain? We're all only human beings, after all. Trying to sit and talk with someone who treats you like you're the dirt under their feet is pretty off-putting, especially for introverts like myself.

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  51. If you don't want to do something or don't like something you can say you don't like that and don't want to do that. Like I don't like that Sunday is referred to as an obligation, I don't like that wording, could you please say a Holy day of 'opportunity' or a Holy 'gift' of mass or you are welcome and necessary.

    It’s an obligation because that’s what it is; an obligation to worship the Lord, the Giver of Life. It’s not an opportunity as a job is, or as dating a person is an opportunity. Church itself is mandatory for those of us who believe, because it’s God’s law (see the Commandments). That’s the language of the law, as it’s divine law.

    I don't like people who say a lot of prayers, have Jesus and anti-abortion bumper stickers, dangle a Rosary in their rear view mirrors, get in your face about your sins but then don't have time to sit still and be your friend and have a real conversation for 5 or 10 minutes of their time and let down their facade and share something honest, true and vulnerable about themselves, everything they do is uncharitable if it is all for them to look good for the other members of the Church.

    We’re taught in the Church to remove the plank from our own eye before considering the speck in our brother’s (in our neighbor’s). You might find the answer to some of your frustrations and anger lies with you being a bit more lenient with people, extend them some grace, and understand that we’re all fumbling our way toward holiness. It’s usual ugly, but that’s no reason to castigate people.

    Maybe at the next sign of peace, you might turn to someone and extend an olive branch, instead of a severe judgment.

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  52. Nubby, Show me, and aren't you obligated to love me as Christ loves me? What happens in Church that makes attendance an obligation but understanding an oversight? and even I was the least of God's brethren how welcoming would you have to be to me? Would you be obligated to treat me as well as if the Pope or Christ himself was visiting? Instead of scornful and scolding with a 'take the plank out of your eye' nonsense. Is that how you would address the Pope or Jesus or your spouse or mother? Anyone who half believed that statement wouldn't have a leg to stand on in saying it to someone else, they'd be busy removing the plank from their own eyes.

    Joann are you arguing that showing bitterness and disdain is OK in some circumstances, that is OK for people to act this way? If it OK for them and the are the really really good people then I suppose it is OK for everyone who falls below that curve (Me). Once again show me how easy it is to love and get to heaven. Treating my friends nice and bad people with scorn... even evil people do that! (Me when I'm acting bad) That couldn't be the criteria of someone who is Holy than me. Wouldn't they say "Oh Wow, yea lets talk, what is bothering you so much? Why does this upset you so much?" Instead of "You baddy bad person. I'm not talking to you. I'm not like bad people like you"

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  53. Joann are you arguing that showing bitterness and disdain is OK in some circumstances, that is OK for people to act this way?

    Absolutely not. I'm saying we are all fallible human beings with fallible human natures, and when we are treated with bitterness, hostility, and disdain the default reaction is to withdraw or lash out. Most of us are not saints and find this instinctive reaction difficult to overcome.

    Once again show me how easy it is to love and get to heaven.

    Who said it was easy?

    Wouldn't they say "Oh Wow, yea lets talk, what is bothering you so much? Why does this upset you so much?" Instead of "You baddy bad person. I'm not talking to you. I'm not like bad people like you"

    They should, but like I said, we're all fallible human beings who have to struggle to overcome the that default reaction.

    Have Christians called you a "baddy bad person" in real life?

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  54. Dr. S, are you trying to argue that the Church's doctrinal teachings are wrong? Or are you trying to point out that people (all of us) are sinners? Or both?

    Not sure what your basic point or question is? Sorry, confused and not sure what you are upset about?

    Clearly, some "churchy" types have been rude to you. But beyond that, I'm not getting the point. If you could be extra clear what your questions and objections are, I will try to answer. If you are just saying that "Christians have been unloving to me, therefore I don't believe in Christian teaching" then I can't answer you, as nothing will satisfy you. If you need perfect Christians before you will believe, that will never happen.

    And if you want us to say that rudeness is holy, we never will.

    I mentioned the saints as role models for Christians. How often do you look to them as your models?

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  55. Nubby, Show me, and aren't you obligated to love me as Christ loves me?

    Show you what? Yes, I am obligated to love all people.

    What happens in Church that makes attendance an obligation but understanding an oversight?

    What does this even mean? Understanding of what? Do you understand your obligation (assuming you’re Catholic)?

    and even I was the least of God's brethren how welcoming would you have to be to me?

    Well, I would give you a smile and a hello, but you’ve already said those things are relatively fake and meaningless, so... What are you expecting, I guess is the real question? You’re mad at the social life in the Church? Or are you mad at the obligation of Mass?

    Would you be obligated to treat me as well as if the Pope or Christ himself was visiting?

    I would be obligated to treat you as a human being, a sinner; the same way you are to welcome me, or anyone else. What’s the disconnect?

    Instead of scornful and scolding with a 'take the plank out of your eye' nonsense.

    You’re free to ditch the Lord’s teaching, but you’re the first person who’s ever said it’s nonsensical. It wasn't meant as scornful. It's a teaching of the Faith.

    You don’t think humility is a general starting point for decency? I gather you’re incredibly teed off, but that’s not the avenue to friendships.

    Is that how you would address the Pope or Jesus or your spouse or mother?
    The Pope, Jesus, and my mother (usually) don’t have an issue with humility and extending peace. Each of these you mention don’t have a blistering anger toward the Church, either.

    Anyone who half believed that statement wouldn't have a leg to stand on in saying it to someone else, they'd be busy removing the plank from their own eyes.

    A leg to stand on for what? Is there a boxing match going on? Hostility isn’t a virtue. And it isn’t one joe schmoe to another; it’s Jesus Christ speaking to us. I said, “We are taught in the Church...”. And yes, that’s the key. Removing junk from our own eyes.

    Sorry you feel angry. Nothing I've said was meant with a scornful attitude.

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  56. Dr. Strangelove

    If it were free then there would be neither punishment nor reward or at least no one would get bent out of shape if I choose one over the other. That's more like freedom.

    So freedom is shouting fire in a crowded theater? Freedom is murdering another human being? Freedom is committing genocide? A God that would create immortal souls who are in no way culpable for their sins when those same souls refuse to be sorry for their heinous acts (like genocide), would not be a God I'm interested in. Mercy I can understand, someone's sorry, fine. But no justice for atrocity? That would be nonsense.

    I can point a gun at a person and say love me or else, but that doesn't seem free to me.

    You forget that when someone is putting a gun to your head there is a real psychological and physiological pressure exerted upon your decision-making process.

    God does not put the gun to your head, he just puts one on the table. There is no pressure except what you allow yourself to feel.

    Guilt can be conditioned away to a certain extent. You ultimately have to choose to believe, or continue believing what you were taught as a child. I know many people who as they get older feel less compunction to do right in spite of their habitual faith, less pressure to do good because of real doubts that crop up. That lack of feeling is hardly a gun pressed to one's head.

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  57. I guess I don't understand - why worry so much about the details of one's faith instead of just emphasizing living a good, reasonably moral life (which I think most people do) if God isn't necessarily that picky? I mean, we've had some pretty heated discussions over things that I consider pretty trivial, and we've disagreed all over the place. If even after all of that disagreement with the Church, I could still potentially end up in heaven, then it seems like the specifics can't be too important.

    "A son can leave the most loving parents in the world, and go out to his own destruction. Of his own free will. Is it the parents' fault that he chose destruction? Was the offering of love and warmth and goodness and support and happiness like holing a gun to his head? Or was the choice completely the son's?"
    But where this falls apart, from my understanding at least, is that hell isn't something God has no control over - right? He makes the decision of who goes to hell - it would technically be within his control to put whoever he wanted wherever he wanted, right? The offering of love is of course not like holding a gun to anyone's head, but the threat of hell is. It would be like saying the son leaves the most loving parents in the world, and goes out and does bad things, and then the parents choose for him to experience destruction for the rest of eternity. That's not loving, no matter how bad he was - of course, love might require harshness in an attempt to reform someone, but I don't think true, perfect love would ever require giving up on someone entirely.

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  58. Michelle, great questions! I am going out in a few minutes, but I will be back later tonight with some thoughts and clarifications. Of course anyone else feel free to jump in as well. Back in a bit...

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  59. Michelle,

    If you unavoidably fealt the threat of hell every day of your life, then it would be like God was holding a gun to your head. He's not.

    Hell is a place that one chooses to go to here on earth. One chooses by choosing to ignore the signs of God's existence, or by choosing to commit murder unrepentantly, etc.

    The trivial details matter otherwise we wouldn't be logically consistent. Being anti-contraception is a logical consequence of our overarching pro-life position. Of course, contraception isn't trivial.

    Anyone can get to heaven if they are earnestly seeking to live a good life, are sorry for all the wrong they've done, and acknowledge God's existence.

    Again, another reason why the trivial matters is because you're speaking to well-catechized Catholics. As one ages, and grows in knowledge and experience the particular application of our understanding of moral law, and our Faith is more apparent and more deeply understood. With that, one also sees the connection between the trivial and the truly important. Sometimes one can see present evil in their history of laziness with the trivial.

    Your analogy is decent, but even with raising kids we often put time limits on action before punishment. For example, "Pick up the chair or you go to your room for five minutes. I'm counting to five and then you're going to your room!"

    One could imagine that those who die, accidental or intentional on the part of another person die nontheless at the most opportune time in their lives for the sake of their salvation.

    -Giuseppe Ambrose

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  60. Not to bombard you with too many more questions, but a couple of things you said earlier have been bothering me:

    "By the way, God does not touch our free will. It is solely ours. He certainly knows what we will choose, but He does not determine it."
    and
    "He knows who will choose what (as He is outside of time and lives in the "eternal now"), but He has in no way made that choice for them. Each person decides for himself. "

    I still haven't quite worked out my own views on free will, so I'm not really arguing against it, just trying to understand, but this sounds kind of contradictory to me. If God is in the "eternal now," that means that he perceives the whole of human experience as "now," right? So, to God, I'm being born and going to elementary school and graduating high school and getting married and dying and being in heaven/hell "now" - I haven't experienced half of those things yet, but God knows exactly how they'll pan out, since he's outside of time. Doesn't that inherently suggest a lack of free will (predestination, perhaps)? If I'm trying to decide between getting a dog or a cat, God already knows what I will choose. I might feel like it's equally likely that I'll get one or the other, but God knows I got a dog, and has known it since before I was born. I can't pick a cat, even though I think I can, because to God, I was going to choose a dog no matter what. There isn't a legitimate choice, even though it looks to me like there is. That would make free will an illusion, wouldn't it?

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  61. I might feel like it's equally likely that I'll get one or the other, but God knows I got a dog, and has known it since before I was born. I can't pick a cat, even though I think I can, because to God, I was going to choose a dog no matter what.

    Michelle, you very well could have picked a cat. "Pre-knowledge" is not "pre-determining" if that makes sense.

    As a rough analogy, let's say I am spirit hovering over a mountain with a winding road visible to me. I see two cars coming from opposite directions, and one is in the wrong lane. They are going fast, they don't see each other, but I see them. I see that they will crash. I don't make them crash. I don't determine that they crash. But I know that they will. Rough analogy, like I said, but I hope you can see my point.

    More in a bit… computer acting up.

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  62. Giuseppe, thanks! By your definition though, a repentant murderer goes to heaven, but I go to hell for not acknowledging God's existence (which fits with what I've heard from other Christians, but doesn't seem to fit what JoAnna and Leila said). That hardly seems fair, and I'd venture as far as to say that sending even the worst of criminals to burn in hell for eternity seems unnecessarily harsh. Some people might not be earnestly seeking to live a good life (which sounds like a very good standard to hold people to! If I believed in God, I would like to imagine that this would be his standard), but that wouldn't mean they were beyond hope.

    I do agree with the analogy - we do generally give some time frame to allow people to quit whatever bad thing they're doing and apologize/fix the mess they made - but we generally don't give them an eternal punishment (or even a very long one) if they don't (except in the case of life sentences, but I think we can agree that's pretty different).

    I like your reasoning on the trivial matters issue. I do understand that Catholics want the best for the world (I do too, and so do we all!), and that trivial things are a part of that, making them not quite so trivial. I'm not quite sure where I'm going with this, but I guess I don't really get why these things are so important if (according to JoAnna and Leila) I could still go to heaven while holding views diametrically opposed to those of the Church. Does that make sense?

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  63. Michelle, no one is beyond hope as long as they have a breath in their body. No one. But we definitely do have to make a decision on earth, whether we love and serve God and seek to do His will, or love and serve ourselves, seeking our own will.

    It's about the state of the soul: If you are a person of good will, who is actively seeking God, actively seeking to love Him and others, actively seeking to do God's will and not your own, then your heart is turned toward truth, toward goodness, toward beauty. You would be seeking, and you will find. You would be knocking and the door would be opened to you.

    But Michelle, I heard a friend of mine say these very words to me: "If God is a god who condemns homosexuality and who says that I can't do what I want with my body, then I would rather be in hell then spend an eternity worshipping Him!"

    If that person truly meant what she said, what should God do? Should he forcibly bring her to Heaven? Is that just? Is that good? What if she has chosen not to worship a God she hates? Why shouldn't God leave her to her choice? Hell is what the unrepentant person wants: No God to serve. No God to worship. No God at all. Just "me" and "my way". Why should God force someone to His home who doesn't want Him? God is not a rapist. He is a gentleman. He gives every person every chance to turn to Him, to find Him, to love Him. But He does not force. He is not a rapist. He is a lover. And when lover is rejected, what should He do?

    I hope you see my point. Even in the case of the wayward son of the family, who goes willingly to his destruction: The parents don't will it or want it. The son chooses it. The parents will wait for him to turn around till the end. But if he never does, how is that their fault? Because they gave him life, it's supposed to be their fault? Nonsense. He has every right and opportunity to come around and come home. They cannot force him home. What would you want them to do?

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  64. PS: Maybe this is simpler to ask, regarding pre-seen vs. pre-determined:

    If you, Michelle, know something is going to happen, does that necessarily mean you determined that it will happen?

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  65. By your definition though, a repentant murderer goes to heaven, but I go to hell for not acknowledging God's existence (which fits with what I've heard from other Christians, but doesn't seem to fit what JoAnna and Leila said). That hardly seems fair

    Michelle, denial of God is a biggie. It's a big sin. So to unrepentantly deny God till your dying day is no venial thing, and no "mistake". It is willful. Why would a person who denies God's very existence (and hates what He stands for) want to live in Heaven with Him for eternity anyway?

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  66. why worry so much about the details of one's faith instead of just emphasizing living a good, reasonably moral life (which I think most people do) if God isn't necessarily that picky?

    One other thought, Michelle. There were many years when I was living life for my own comfort and pleasure, and had completely turned from what could be considered virtuous and moral living. It was all about me, and not about doing God's will and loving Him and others before myself.

    Don't you know people like that? I think they are everywhere. God requires one's heart. I perceive a lot of hardened hearts out there. Again, I can't judge anyone's final destiny (thank goodness we have a lifetime to choose -- if we are lucky enough to get the gift of many years), and I don't infallibly read hearts, of course, but I don't know if "everyone is living a good, reasonable moral life" and seeking to do God's will as they know it.

    Thoughts?

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  67. why worry so much about the details of one's faith instead of just emphasizing living a good, reasonably moral life (which I think most people do) if God isn't necessarily that picky?

    I'll just throw this in here: The reason why we might "worry" about someone's faith is not just about heaven and hell (of course, heaven is the end goal and we want everyone to get there). But we also have discovered Truth...wonderful, glorious, beautiful, soul-satisfying Truth and we experience it here and now. We want to share it with others, so they can experience, here and now and in heaven, all of the goodness and wonder and love that God has for them. Life is just incredible and we want to share it. :)

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  68. If you, Michelle, know something is going to happen, does that necessarily mean you determined that it will happen?
    Nope! We do agree there. I feel like I'm on the verge of understanding what you mean, but it's still a bit muddled in my mind. If I know something is going to happen, really know without a doubt, it must be inevitable, otherwise I really only know what is likely to happen. God, though, must know without a doubt what will happen and he can't be wrong - he knows before those drivers even get in their cars that they're going to crash - and so it's inevitable even though they don't know it. God didn't necessarily cause it to happen (though he can selectively intervene in events, right?), but perhaps he could see how it was inevitable based on preceding events? If to God everything is inevitable, even if he doesn't cause it, then free will must be an illusion. If everything isn't inevitable, if we really do always have legitimate choices, then God can't know what we're going to do because we haven't done it yet. Does that make sense? Where did I go wrong?

    Sure, God can't force someone to be with him. But why is the alternative an eternity of torture? In real life, if a lover is rejected, that lover would be considered deranged if they sought to make the object of their affections miserable for the rest of their life. He should just let well enough alone - he might genuinely believe that that rejection makes them an awful person, that they'll never be truly happy unless they accept his love, but really, for any human lover, that's creepy. Why torture? Why not nothingness? If someone's a Christian and goes off and does awful things, then, yes, they're asking for hell. Someone who isn't Christian and genuinely does not believe is not asking for hell.

    The idea that "God requires one's heart" seems unnecessarily needy. Is that really a reasonable criterion of who is worthy of an eternity of happiness? Like Giuseppe implied, a repentant murderer could go to heaven, but an atheist who's lived a good life - not a life for God - but still a good life by all other criteria could go to hell. That doesn't make sense.

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  69. Michelle, I honestly don't find your position logical at all, regarding knowing vs. determining. They are two separate things completely. For example, I may know without doubt that at 6:42pm tomorrow night, prisoner X will be given a lethal injection. Because I know it, it doesn't mean I determined it!

    Now, you will say it's only "likely" that it would happen. Fair enough. But my mind is finite and not omniscient. I can't know 100% for sure. God's mind, unlike mine, is omniscient. So, He can know with 100% certainty the things I can only know as "likely" to occur. But it still does not follow that he determines outcomes simply because He sees them!

    If to God everything is inevitable, even if he doesn't cause it, then free will must be an illusion.

    But everything is not inevitable to God! Free will is real, and it's not an illusion. These are not synonymous sentences:
    "To God everything is known."
    "To God everything is inevitable."

    "Known" and "inevitable" have completely different meanings. Look up the words "known" and "inevitable". They aren't interchangeable.

    Free will is real, and we have every choice ahead of us.

    Look, I understand that it's a concept that can be hard for you to grasp, and maybe you haven't thought much about it. Take some more time and think about it, dare I say pray about it, and see what comes.

    More in a second...

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  70. In real life, if a lover is rejected, that lover would be considered deranged if they sought to make the object of their affections miserable for the rest of their life.

    Again you keep insisting that God is sadistically trying to punish people and "make them pay". Time and time we have said that He wants no one to be lost, and He wills misery on no one, and that people choose hell (an eternity without God) for themselves. What would you have Him do with the one who rejects Him utterly? Force them to Heaven to worship and "love" Him? How can they get to Heaven when they don't have love in them? Heaven is a place of perfection. No one with sin and disdain for God can even survive there.

    You mention the option of "nothingness" instead. What do you mean? Do you mean total annihilation? Or do you mean, just left completely alone for eternity? Clarify what you mean by "nothingness" as an option.

    He should just let well enough alone - he might genuinely believe that that rejection makes them an awful person, that they'll never be truly happy unless they accept his love, but really, for any human lover, that's creepy.

    You must understand that in the end, Love is all there is. If one refuses Love, rejects Love, then who or what are they? (Remember, Love is not "chemical reactions in the brain" or simply a "feeling"… it is a choice and an act.)

    Maybe this will help put it in perspective: We Catholics believe that one can never accidentally fall into hell. One chooses it for himself. If there is doubt, if there is, through no fault of his own, confusion or an ill-formed conscience, God sees that. There are people who die and need MUCH "purgation" of their souls. We call that cleansing Purgatory. Nothing unclean shall enter Heaven, as the Bible says. If any sin or stain or error or injustice, or vice were in Heaven, it would not be Heaven, right? So, most of us will have some (painful) cleansing to get fit for Heaven, after death, but before we see God face to face. For some (people who missed the boat, but some how caught the rudder) it will be a prolonged purgation, one that will burn deeply, as in cleaning a deep wound of it's infections. It is not pleasant, but it's just and it's merciful. Others, who lived a life of terrible sin, but who repent at the last hour, will also be given the great mercy of God, but will also have to be purged of the vestiges of that horrible life of sin. For this, the soul will be eternally grateful.

    So, unlike Protestants believe, no one gets off "scott free" just because they repent at the last minute. Everyone has to make up for their sins, and if they don't learn to love perfectly here on earth (i.e., the saints), they will learn to love perfectly during their cleansing in Purgatory. It is a severe mercy, but it is just. And good. And our souls demand it, actually.

    Anyway, I am on a new topic, but I wanted you to know that no one just gets a free pass if they repent (sincerely) after a life of evil. All of us must be perfected before we enter eternal bliss, but we can either do that perfection here on earth, or will will do it after death (assuming we haven't rejected God and Love outright here on earth).

    Does that make sense?

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  71. Michelle, just to have it for the record, here is the Catechism on Hell, with the emphases mine:

    IV. HELL

    1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."612 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.613 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."

    1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.614 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,"615 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"616

    1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."617 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

    1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."618

    Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."619
    1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;620 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance"621

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  72. Wait, Leila, I must not have made myself clear. God doesn't necessarily have to have determined something (let's keep using the crash) will happen to know it will. I get that. But as you said, God knows everything perfectly. He knows 100% that that crash is going to happen. The only way anyone can know 100% that something is going to happen is for it to be inevitable. I'm pretty sure that I'm going to catch my bus home today, but I would never say I'm 100% certain that I will, because that would mean there is no possibility that the driver will be late. It doesn't account for free will. In the same way, if God knows something 100%, that must mean there is no way it will happen differently. If God knows the crash is going to happen, that crash is going to happen. Right?

    Of course, God wouldn't want anyone to go to hell. But then why have hell at all? Is the existence of hell some unfortunate fact God has no control over? I'm not trying to be dense, since I do understand what you mean - hell is a total absence of God - and the idea of purgatory makes sense in the context of an afterlife, I think. I guess what I meant by "nothingness" was what you'd consider complete annihilation. Why not that?

    Something to consider is that, although I still don't think belief in God is any sort of reasonable criterion for who is good, I know I (and most other atheists I know) would be pretty staunch Christians if we thought the evidence pointed to the Christian God. Believe me, if I somehow stumbled across a proof of God (or even just really, really good evidence, not necessarily proof), I would be the first to admit my mistake and would do my utmost to be the best Christian I could be. I would think to be really rejecting God in any meaningful way, you have to already believe he exists.

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  73. Michelle, I'm grateful that you are hanging in here, and I will try one more time to make the distinction.

    Inevitable means: "Certain to happen; unavoidable"

    Sin is not inevitable, and not unavoidable. Just because God sees it outside of time, doesn't mean it was ever inevitable! We chose it, he knows it. But never, ever are our choices inevitable. If we had no choice, then there would be no hell. There also would be no sin, because sin is necessarily a choice. If sin or virtue were not a choice, then we are robots and hell would be moot.

    Sin is not unavoidable. So, sin is not inevitable. God knowing all does not change that, not one bit.

    Believe me, if I somehow stumbled across a proof of God (or even just really, really good evidence, not necessarily proof), I would be the first to admit my mistake and would do my utmost to be the best Christian I could be.

    But when you read something like this (to which you still haven't given me a reasonable alternative):

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/05/did-jesus-really-die-and-rise.html

    or when you read C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, or Strobel's A Case for Christ and reject it as even sorta good evidence, then where does that leave you? I just don't get it. It seems like the only thing that would satisfy you is if Jesus bodily appeared in your house, but even then I think you might find a way around what your eyes saw. I think you are set on non-belief. I could be wrong, but are you truly seeking God?
    And if so, then why won't you give me that long sought-after scenario of what happened after the wild dogs ate Jesus' body. Or how the Catholic papacy can humanly outlive every other institution on the face of the globe, and still be as vibrant and relevant today as ever? Where are your reasonable explanations for those and other things which point straight to Christ?

    I would think to be really rejecting God in any meaningful way, you have to already believe he exists.

    And some would argue that on some level, we all know He exists. We may talk ourselves out of belief, but on some level, we know. That is why we are all left with an inexplicable longing, and it's not a longing that can be fulfilled by anything on this earth.

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  74. Michelle, Jesus spoke to this issue, with a parable. Note the ending, that some people will not believe, even if a man should rise from the dead:

    The Rich Man and Lazarus Luke 16

    19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

    22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

    25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

    27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

    29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

    30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

    31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

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  75. Is this thing on? Geesh, come on with the sign in.

    Michelle,
    There's more than ample proof of Jesus Christ the man as a real person. There's also load of evidence of Him as Lord.

    Leila has covered all of this. And there's enough reading on this topic (of Christ) to soak your brain a good semester, if you wish to make the plunge.

    Go for it.

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  76. I only mean that for an event that hasn't yet occurred to be truly knowable, it has to be inevitable. It is inevitable that if I add 2 and 2 I will get 4, it is inevitable that if I pick up a book and drop it it will hit the floor, and so forth. I just can't understand how right now I could be debating between getting a dog and getting a cat, and God could know with 100% certainty what I will choose. If he knows what I don't yet know for myself, then that suggests that I don't really have a choice - it is inevitable that I will end up choosing a dog, but I don't know it yet. If I had a legitimate choice, if I was really doing the choosing for myself, then God couldn't possibly know what I will choose because I haven't chosen it yet. Do you see what I mean? That's why an omniscient God and free will seem incompatible to me.

    What about the question of hell? Why not annihilation? I certainly don't think that by not believing in God I'm asking for hell. I fully expect that I - the thoughts and consciousness that make me who I am - will simply cease to exist when I die. To me, that's what an absence of God is: not despair and torture, but nothing.

    To be intellectually honest with myself, I'd have to evaluate the claims of every single belief system. Is Christianity the only religion that has miracles that (apparently) can't be explained by anything other than God? It wouldn't be fair of me to just accept Christianity because I don't have fully formed explanations for every miraculous claim, but still reject other faiths that rely on miracles as well, many of which I'm sure are pretty hard to explain. Of course, I haven't come close to debunking every single religious claim, nor do I really intend to. The premise of a God simply doesn't make logical sense to me, just as the premise of no God doesn't make logical sense to you. Even if proof of God came and talked to me personally, I'm not sure I would see it as proof, since to me the whole premise doesn't make sense. If I was really seeking God, though, I think I'd be much more willing to accept what I'm told here, since you do explain things very well! As it stands, I'm mostly more interested in understanding religion than finding it. I am always open to the possibility that I might develop genuine belief, but it would have to make more sense to me than what I currently believe.

    As for the parable, I actually took the first part as a lesson to help others less fortunate than yourself. The fact that the rich man didn't believe seems to be linked to his having good things (and I assume not sharing them), which doesn't make sense to me. If I were to make a list of all the good people I know (which I wouldn't do, since I think nearly everyone has at least some redeeming quality), I can't imagine how belief would play into that. To me, what you believe in has nothing to do with how good of a person you are, and that's why belief as a main criterion for who makes it to heaven seems strange to me.

    Anyway, I understand if you've moved on from this post, since there have been quite a few more recent ones, but I really do appreciate the discussion. I hope that the fact that I'm not seeking God doesn't make it seem like I've just been trolling, since I've really gained a lot from these conversations (and hopefully some tenacious lurkers have too). Thank you!

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  77. If I had a legitimate choice, if I was really doing the choosing for myself, then God couldn't possibly know what I will choose because I haven't chosen it yet. Do you see what I mean?

    That would only be true if God were NOT outside of time, and if He were not omniscient (or prescient). So, no, I don't understand. I think the problem (correct me if I have the wrong terminology) is that you believe the relationship between the knowing and the doing is "causal". But one is not the cause or the determiner of the other. I don't know if I can make you see it, but I will try to find some Aquinas or Augustine, or even Kreeft, which might make it more clear.

    Back with the rest in a few minutes….

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  78. Why not annihilation?

    Because you were created with an immortal soul.

    As for the search for religion, I want to give you a thoughtful answer, but that can't be till later tonight. Please check back. I have lots of thoughts on that…

    Thanks for hanging in!

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  79. Michelle,
    Instead of listing what you don’t concede to, give us a list of what you may or do concede to. Do you concede that the dimension and constant of time did not evolve? Do you concede that the universe is measurable (it is) and that the odds of anything happening by chance are ridiculously small (10 raise to the 10 raise to the 123 to 1 against)? Do you concede that philosophically and physically, there is data available to our senses that point to there being a greater power?

    And I’m not even asking for you to claim Jesus Christ, yet. I’m just asking you to concede, after all we’ve discussed at length on this topic, that there is very probably a higher power, a supernatural being, who is outside of time and physical laws who is the only one capable of explaining where the initial bang came from?

    What can you concede?

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  80. * anything happening by chance = meaning that the universe just popped into existence by chance.

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  81. Leila, I know there isn't a causal relationship. I get that. I just don't understand how someone can know what I will do before I do it, yet I could still have free will. If someone knows without a doubt what I'm about to do, before I know I'm going to do it, there must be some inevitable quality to my actions. I'm not sure how else to put it - it just makes zero logical sense to me. Yes, God is outside of time, but I am constrained by time, and I haven't yet done what I'm about to do. If I truly have free will and I haven't yet made a decision, inside of time or outside of it, no one can know what I'll do because I haven't done it yet. I'm sure I'm going wrong somewhere here, but it really doesn't make sense to me.

    Annihilation sounds like a much kinder option than hell. When I think of death, I don't exactly think of "annihilation" since I don't believe in an immortal soul - I just imagine that I will cease to exist. Why not just destroy the souls that would otherwise go to hell? I came across a quote from Aquinas that maybe addressed this: "That the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell." Is that relevant?

    And Nubby, I'm honestly a bit offended you would ask me to concede things that I've argued against over and over. "Very probably a higher power, a supernatural being"? Not at all. I've already said that the premise of a God doesn't make sense. All I'll concede is that it is possible (but unlikely) that one day I could be convinced of the existence of a God. So far, everything I've read, atheist and religious, has led me to see more rationality in an atheist worldview.

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  82. Well, Michelle, it certainly wasn’t meant as an offense. In normal discussions and debates about these things, one can concede to a more logical point.

    You, yourself, have said that the idea of time is a sticking point for you that you're curious about. You, yourself, have said that you can see the universe has a finite beginning, and so on.

    So, from there, I thought we’d go ahead and discuss. But if you’re offended because you’ve already dug your heels in, yes, then the discussion is over. Just when it looks like we might drop our nets in the water and go fishing, there comes a giant harpoon and the fish is belly up.

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  83. Nubby, I only meant that there was no way I was going to simply concede to something I'd said didn't make sense time and time again. I'm always seeking to understand other viewpoints better though, which really helps me understand and refine my own, so I wouldn't mind discussion at all - that's the only reason why I'm here! :)

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  84. Do you believe in the big bang?

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  85. Good. So we agree there is a finite beginning to the universe. Yes?

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  86. Yes. But what comes before that? That's where we don't agree, I think.

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  87. How can something "come before" the beginning?

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  88. Isn't that a question we both have to answer? I'm not sure. What's outside the universe, if anything? Are we in just one of many universes, or is ours the only one? I think these might be relevant, but I think these are things physics just has yet to answer.

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  89. I’m just trying to establish with you that there was a beginning or there wasn’t with you. It cannot be both. Which is it?

    By the way, if we’re going to get all over the map so when did those other universes begin?

    The point is, this and all the other universes you may or may not believe in either started a point in time, thus a finite measurable past; OR they have always been which is an infinite past.

    Let’s just make a definition here that we agree on and go forward. You choose. I’ll follow your lead.
    Infinite or finite?

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  90. * started at, a point in time, not started a point in time

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  91. I'm really not sure. I'm no physicist, unfortunately, but one thing I have read is that "before" the Big Bang, the universe existed as a singularity, and so time as we know it didn't exist. Beyond that, I can't really say.

    You've argued fairly convincingly against an infinite past on a couple of previous posts, I remember, and I agree that it doesn't make sense. So let's go with a finite beginning.

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  92. Good. So the next question becomes: where did the mass and energy at that beginning come from?
    Because before the beginning, there was nothing. No mass, no energy, no time, no nothing. Nothing to evolve from. From where did it come?

    Again, I'll follow your lead.

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  93. I am learning a lot from this exchange, Michelle and Nubby. Keep going!

    In the meantime, Michelle, which other world religions do you think you would investigate, if you ever thought there were a God?

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  94. Nubby, I don't know. I think it's a question for physicists to answer, and one that I'm unfortunately not too well read on. This might have something to do with it, though: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-energy_universe

    Leila, I think if I ever though there was a God, I would be a deist. It would take rationalizations and mental gymnastics I'm not sure I'm capable of to reconcile the world I see today with a loving, personal God. If, somehow, I became convinced of the existence of a personal God(s), I guess I would systematically go through each religion and reject/accept them based on which made the most sense and best fit with the world I know and understand. I'm not sure any would pass, but I would be as fair as possible in evaluating them.

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  95. But which ones, Michelle? There are probably thousands of religions.

    Also, do you see that you might be a little bit "controlling" in the sense that if there is a God, you are sure not giving him much of a chance as you spend your whole life in scientific evaluation of him? Making Him pass your muster? How about praying, and asking Him to reveal Himself to you? How about being more passive and letting Him love you for a moment? Say this prayer: "Jesus, if you exist, please reveal yourself to me." And really mean it. Give Him a chance.

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  96. Leila, I don't know. I'd probably start with the major ones and then, if none of them seemed right, delve into some of the smaller ones. But really, I think even the idea of picking through a bunch of religions is a bit silly, and no offense intended - because I absolutely know you mean well, and I truly do appreciate it - if the idea of a God at all doesn't make sense, the idea of a personal God is not going to suddenly make sense. I need to always remain intellectually honest with myself, and if I somehow ever became religious, it would have to be from the ground up. Convince myself of a God first (like I said, and am coming to realize more, it doesn't make sense to me), and only then reassess whether a personal God makes sense.

    I hope that makes sense, and you understand where I'm coming from. I hardly think I'm closing myself off to religion - if I were, I would not be here! - but I am always seeking to understand more. The discussions here have forced me to answer and ask questions I would probably have never even thought of on my own, and I really appreciate that. Thank you!

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  97. Michelle, Zero-energy is a theory to summarize what exists. It does not explain how it came to be in the first place. (And quantum fluctuations, etc. doesn’t mean something can come from ‘nothing’, but that’s for another time).

    Forget the physics for a moment, and let’s just use logic.

    Is it more logical for you personally to believe that there was nothing, then, suddenly, there was an entire universe of mass and energy in one ball ready to explode? Or that it had to be created by something?

    Btw – the information you provided does not address time. Another question I would ask you is: How did time come to be if nothing existed before the beginning?

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  98. Okay, just logic. It's more logical for me to believe that this is a fascinating area of physics that needs to be explored more (and that I need to read more about) than it is for me to believe that a supernatural intelligence with no basis in matter is capable of creating everything - matter and time - that exists today.

    This is something I've never gotten a good answer for: how could a supernatural being immeasurably more intelligent than ourselves just exist without having developed somehow, or if you like, having been created itself? If our own existence and intelligence is something that requires a designer to explain, then why does no one seem particularly concerned with how the designer came to be?

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  99. It’s logical to explore physics, ok...
    But the choices were: ball of energy, mass, time from nothing that poofs into being, or higher power who had the thrust necessary?

    Your turn.

    (And I've commented on your second paragraph before. We can open that up after we finish this, if you please.)

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  100. But Michelle, you keep stopping at the hard questions. I have not had a single response from anyone as to why the papacy still stands, and no other institution from that time does:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/04/and-papacy-remains.html

    What could be a human reason for that, considering the bumbling sinfulness of its leaders? How can it be that doctrine remains unchanging, when even our own baby nation cannot keep our own beliefs stationary?

    And, what of the story of Christ? You still haven't finished the story: "The dogs ate the body of Jesus and then…." Give me the reasonable story, based on logic and what we know of human nature…

    Work on those, just to humor me?

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  101. Nubby, I was just reading more about this today. In The Grand Design, Hawking suggests that at the very, very early stages of the universe, time was actually a fourth dimension of space. You can't even really think about time then in any meaningful way, and so the idea of the "beginning" of the universe doesn't make sense. From my somewhat shaky understanding of it, though, the idea of a universe that just poofs into being isn't necessarily even right. Logic is great and I love it, but this is really a question for physics. The higher being, like I said, does not make sense.

    Leila, I don't have time for a response right now (my computer broke and I'm stuck using someone else's for the moment) but I promise a response as soon as I can! I don't think I ever said anything about dogs eating Jesus' body, though...

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  102. Alright, Leila, I'll do the best I can, quickly:

    I'm actually not at all surprised the Papacy has lasted as long as it has. From what I understand, it's well organized and has some sort of authority (that's constantly maintained), which is important. A religion that's totally up to its followers to maintain, I'm guessing, wouldn't last too long. Add in that people grow up believing and doing the rituals, and raise their children the same way, and really truly believe that their salvation depends on it, and I'd probably be a bit surprised if it died out quickly. I really don't know a whole lot about this, but are there any other faiths that are organized like the Catholic Church? Kind of hard to know if the Church is really a special case or whether it's just really organized. Other faiths have lasted quite a while though - couldn't the same argument be made for orthodox Judaism, or Hinduism?

    As for Jesus, that will have to wait, but I promise to give it another shot when I next get a chance. I will say, though, that any inability to fully explain a claimed miracle that happened 2000 years ago is not really enough to make me believe. Are there other faiths that make claims of miracles that you are unable to explain? Or are all of those easily debunked? Thanks!

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  103. Got it, but:
    Did you notice you said “very, very early stages”? That doesn’t mean the beginning.

    We’re talking about the exact point of explosion. Hawking is amiss on a lot (perhaps some other day).

    Did you notice you are now saying that the universe is infinite, with this sentence, “so the idea of the "beginning" of the universe doesn't make sense”?

    Was it infinite or finite? I keep hammering this point because it’s crucial.

    We’ve already covered how it cannot possibly be infinite. If it was infinite, we’d never reach today. If we cannot ‘reach back’ and have a starting point to start counting forward, we’d never reach today. And all modern day physics validates, indeed, there is a finite point to the universe.

    I will say, yes, of course, to this: “the idea of a universe that just poofs into being isn't necessarily even right.” Yes, that’s why it didn’t “just poof”. It was created.

    As to Hawking’s book, it’s not lauded as good science. Red flags abound. He posits ideas that can never ever be tested, so they’re not so much theories as they are just big ideas. Not to mention that he redefines words like “low energy” to mean “nothing”. Read the book, sure; but hopefully you just borrowed it and can return it; it’s not one worthy to even keep on your bookshelf as a reference.

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  104. Michelle, thanks for the response! I guess I would say that there have been many things which have been organized (and even run better!) than the Catholic Church. The papacy itself has been intact and teaching the same truth for 20 centuries, sometimes with weak and even mortally sinful popes. How did it not collapse (and stick to the same doctrine!), when much more powerful institutions long ago fell to waste? You are saying that it's because her followers were somehow making that happen? I am a bit confused as to how that happens? Remember, the statement is not even talking about religions, it's talking about human institutions, governments, empires, etc. Why did those fall apart centuries ago, and the Papacy remains? Who is keeping it there? Little peasants and indifferent Catholics all over the world, for 2000 years? And they all made sure that the Pope never changed a teaching? How did they do that part?

    Every other institution I know of (Judaism does not have an institutional component now, and that is an interesting connection to the Church, but I don't have time to go into it… Catholicism is simply the fulfillment of Judaism) changes teachings or philosophies or beliefs pretty regularly.

    So, I am still wanting you to probe this further and think specifically how this could happen? Because the fact that that statement I posted is true has actually convinced many an intellectual, many a skeptic, many a non-believer that something more than human is at work here….

    Thanks!

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  105. Okay, I'd like to wrap this up soon if possible, as I won't have much/any time to comment in the next few days.

    Nubby, notice I said "You can't even really think about time then in any meaningful way, and so the idea of the "beginning" of the universe doesn't make sense." So, while I (think I) agree with you about the problem of an infinite past, it might not even make sense to talk about it, since "past" has no meaning if time doesn't exist, and neither does "beginning." I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around it, I'll admit, but that is a possible explanation.

    Have you actually read Hawking's book, by the way? I know there's quite a bit of speculation in there, but it's full of very interesting ideas. I do find what you said ironic, though: "As to Hawking’s book, it’s not lauded as good science. Red flags abound. He posits ideas that can never ever be tested, so they’re not so much theories as they are just big ideas." First of all, I'm not sure that's true that they can't be tested, but even if they can't be, neither can the concept of God. I want to emphasize that, because at least Hawking's ideas have some basis in math and what we know of physics. The concept of God does not, and cannot.

    Could you (or anyone else) explain why there's little interest in how the creator was created? To me, that's an incredibly important question that cannot be glossed over. I know we've argued about this before, but I don't think I ever got a satisfactory answer.

    Also, an aside: Nubby, in case I forget, I did see some of your comments on evolution on another post - please, please, if you do nothing else, read up more on it. I know Zach in real life and I can vouch for his understanding of evolution. He's right about Adam and Eve.

    Leila, I don't know much about the organization of the Church. I do agree that it's impressive that it's lasted so long, but I'm hardly convinced that there's something supernatural at work. I'm sure you won't be satisfied until I concede that God had a hand in it! ;) I think the comparison to other institutions, like governments, isn't quite fair, since people typically don't think their eternal fate rests on their government's survival. From what I understand, though, there's quite a bit more to the Church than just the Pope and a bunch of followers - there are various ranks (sorry, I don't have the terminology to discuss this as well as I'd like!), right, so it's not exactly a dictatorship that just magically has remained consistent? I'm guessing that part of it is that Catholic doctrine is specifically set up in a way that it can't be changed. It's not like the US Constitution, which can be amended. If it couldn't be, people would probably revolt or just leave, but the Constitution would remain the same - which, if my memory of the world history class I took 6 years ago serves me well, is how the Protestant church started: a parting from Catholic doctrine (please correct me if I'm wrong...you know me and history).

    Hope that makes some sense, as I'm in a race against the laptop battery! I'm really not trying to avoid your question about Jesus (okay, maybe I am a little bit, because I know whatever I say will be wildly uninformed, since I haven't read that chunk of the Bible!), but could you first answer this? Are there other faiths that make claims of miracles that you are unable to explain? Or are all of those easily debunked? Thanks! In addition, if you did come across a claim of a miracle from another faith that you were unable to come up with a complete worldly explanation for, would you be obligated to accept it as true?

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  106. Michelle, yes, yes!! Protestantism is a great place to demonstrate what I mean! The minute that the Protestant reformers broke from the Church, and set up their own churches and authorities, doctrine began changing immediately! And it kept changing and the factions began to split over doctrinal issues, and the issues become contradictory, and the fissures and factions became more numerous, and even a few years later, Protestantism become a case study in doctrinal chaos! And five hundred years later, it's even worse, and no two Protestants can agree on anything set of doctrines or moral code! Because that is what happens in purely human terms, and in purely human institutions. The Reformers stepped out from the protection of the Holy Spirit, who only protects the teaching of the Magisterial Church, not just any old believer!

    I hope that helps you see what I mean! How to explain the Catholic Church, which has existed 1,500 years longer than Protestantism, and yet still has not changed a doctrinal teaching or a moral truth, and there is NOTHING of doctrinal chaos in her! And this, even though there are far more Catholics, far more centuries, far more cultures covered, far more of everything that would complicate life and human activity.

    Do you see? I think the contrast to Protestantism is an excellent illustration.

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  107. I'm guessing that part of it is that Catholic doctrine is specifically set up in a way that it can't be changed.

    Nope, it's not.

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  108. Remember, Michelle, even the Koran, which is not like a Constitution which can be amended, is interpreted VERY differently by all sorts of factions. What does "Islam" teach? Who knows? Everyone has a different idea. Same with Protestant Christianity.

    The Catholic Church stands alone, not only in length of survival of an institution (the papacy), but also in the unchanging teachings. NO other religion or government, or empire, or business comes even remotely close to what we see happening in the Church. There is NO earthly parallel.

    God sets up "evidence" for us to see, to find our way to Him. How do you explain away this un-earthly truth of the Church, her longevity, and her unchanging teachings?

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  109. "Are there other faiths that make claims of miracles that you are unable to explain? Or are all of those easily debunked? Thanks!"

    I am certain that miracles can happen to non-Catholics. I am also certain that there is only one God who makes them happen.

    Of all other religions, though, I think Christianity is the only one based on one simple historical event, which was the resurrection of a dead man who claimed to be the eternal God. That is the claim to examine.

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  110. Could you (or anyone else) explain why there's little interest in how the creator was created?

    The Creator was not created. He is eternal.

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  111. So then I guess that could be another part of why the Papacy has lasted as long as it has - why bother changing it? If you don't like it but still like Christianity in general, you'd probably just become a Protestant, and you could pick whichever denomination/church fit your own beliefs best. I know if I was originally Catholic and found something I didn't like in Catholic doctrine, I sure wouldn't go to the trouble of trying to get the doctrine changed. I'd just leave.

    "I am certain that miracles can happen to non-Catholics. I am also certain that there is only one God who makes them happen."
    See, this is what I don't get. It seems that, ideally, my inability to explain away every detail of Jesus' resurrection would lead me straight to Christ - and yet other miraculous claims from other faiths don't lead you straight to their faith. Someone of another faith might say that their miraculous claims point to their conception of God. Why must they be wrong, but you must be right? I hope you can see why the Jesus question doesn't really bother me - otherwise, to be intellectually honest with myself, I would have to give every miraculous claim that directly counters what we know about biology/physics/chemistry/whatever a fair chance.

    The Creator was not created. He is eternal.
    I'm going to be really blunt here, not in an attempt to be rude or to mimic the snark of some of the commenters on that other post, but because this is important: this makes zero logical sense. None at all. First of all, how can an intelligence - an immaterial one! - just be? Nothing put it there? It didn't develop over time, like our intelligence? Second, how can that intelligence, which presumably existed prior to the existence of time and matter (using "prior" loosely here, I'm sure you know what I mean), even conceive of time and matter, let alone create it? If I were a believer at all, of any faith, this would keep me up at night. To me, this is the biggest theoretical problem with any religion - God is used to explain the magnificent people and animals and plants and earth and universe that surround us...but then God, which is so much more magnificent than all of these things combined, doesn't require an explanation!

    I truly don't mean any disrespect, but I hope you can see why I find this frustrating.

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  112. So then I guess that could be another part of why the Papacy has lasted as long as it has - why bother changing it? If you don't like it but still like Christianity in general, you'd probably just become a Protestant, and you could pick whichever denomination/church fit your own beliefs best. I know if I was originally Catholic and found something I didn't like in Catholic doctrine, I sure wouldn't go to the trouble of trying to get the doctrine changed. I'd just leave.


    You'd think so, wouldn't you? I have the same thought process, which is why I left the ELCA when I came to the conclusion that I no longer believed in its doctrines.

    However, there are an astounding amount of people who disagree wholly with the Church and, whatever reason, refuse to leave it. Instead, they form groups like "Catholics for Choice," or "Woman Priests for the Catholic Church." Look at all of the politicians who claim to be Catholic and yet all of their actions are against Catholic doctrine (Pelosi, Biden, etc.).

    It's a puzzler, all right.

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  113. So then I guess that could be another part of why the Papacy has lasted as long as it has - why bother changing it? If you don't like it but still like Christianity in general, you'd probably just become a Protestant, and you could pick whichever denomination/church fit your own beliefs best. I know if I was originally Catholic and found something I didn't like in Catholic doctrine, I sure wouldn't go to the trouble of trying to get the doctrine changed. I'd just leave.

    Forgive me for being baffled, but this answer doesn't even touch the question of how the Church has never changed her teachings in spite of everything that's happened throughout history and eras and all the popes who have been there in 2,000 years! You're not even trying to find an answer. You are saying "people who didn't like it left" but that has nothing to do with the main question!

    Look, if you put twenty people in a room and play "telephone" you will get a different "truth" by the end of the game. But put 20 centuries of popes in line and not a single truth changed? Not even the hard, unpopular sayings? Not a thing? Not humanly explainable. I wish you would think a little more deeply on this. No offense, but seriously, this is a big question and you are swatting it away as if this sort of preservation of truth through an undying institution happens every day. Truth is, it happens nowhere else, ever.

    Someone of another faith might say that their miraculous claims point to their conception of God. We aren't talking about a "conception of God", we are talking about a claim that Jesus is God! That is the central question of all of history. If Jesus rose, then He is God, and all other conceptions of God are subordinate to that one Truth. A historical event, a real person.

    If I were a believer at all, of any faith, this would keep me up at night. To me, this is the biggest theoretical problem with any religion - God is used to explain the magnificent people and animals and plants and earth and universe that surround us...but then God, which is so much more magnificent than all of these things combined, doesn't require an explanation!

    Yes, of course the concept of God (eternal, infinite) would frustrate the finite, non-eternal mind! How can the finite expect to understand the infinite? Why does God require an explanation? He needs to explain Himself to us, His creatures? He owes us nothing, actually, but thankfully, He gave us His revelation and enough of His own "echo" inside of us (conscience, natural law, actual grace) to find Him. The vast majority of human beings understand that we are creatures. Because we are. And, if that weren't enough, He also sent His Son to die and rise, to show us Who He is, and to bring us back to Him. He did a whole lot to make Himself known. You could say He's pretty much unavoidable.

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  114. Michelle, a beginning does exist. Arg. Did you want stats or a site ...? How can I help you understand this.

    Have you actually read Hawking's book, by the way?
    Yes, and A Brief History of Time, and I also read reviews from his colleagues to see what his own community is saying about him, do you? He has changed his tune quite a bit.

    It’s not flattering what they’re saying about his book, Michelle, so please don’t be gullible just because it has “Stephen Hawking” on the book cover.

    I know there's quite a bit of speculation in there, but it's full of very interesting ideas.

    Just so we agree that speculation is not scientific fact, right.

    First of all, I'm not sure that's true that they can't be tested, but even if they can't be, neither can the concept of God. I want to emphasize that, because at least Hawking's ideas have some basis in math and what we know of physics. The concept of God does not, and cannot.

    You don’t have to take my word for it. Here are some critiques from his own peers (atheists, Oxford professor Penrose who needs no introduction in the physics world, and Stannard, an award winning high energy nuclear physicist). If I can’t sway you, then heed their criticism:

    It is likely that any “completion” of quantum theory to an objective picture of reality would require new mathematical ideas of subtlety and sophistication beyond even that of Einstein’s general-relativistic space-time, but this challenge is addressed to future theorists’ ingenuity and does not, in my view, represent any real threat to the existence of an objective universe. The same might apply to M-theory, but unlike quantum mechanics, M-theory enjoys no observational support whatever. Roger Penrose is Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, reviewed in Financial Times.com, Sept 4, 2010.
    more....

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  115. That philosophy of Hawking's is precisely the one that I'm trying to counter. His views, as have been reported, are a perfect example of what is called scientism: that science is the only route to knowledge and that, ultimately, we'll have a complete understanding of everything. That is nonsense, and I think it's dangerous nonsense, because it makes scientists sound exceedingly arrogant. It's all very well saying the universe came about as a result of spontaneous creation due to M-theory. But that raises the question: where did M-theory come from? Why are there intelligible physical laws?
    - Russell Stannard, emeritus professor of physics at the Open University and recipient of The Bragg Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics for ‘distinguished contributions to the teaching of physics’ (1999).

    There’s more where this came from, but here’s just two for a fair warning. Clearly, if his own peers aren’t raving, I would proceed with caution. I have the books, so let me know as you read, if you want to open up any discussion. I’ll help anyway I can, if you like.

    Could you (or anyone else) explain why there's little interest in how the creator was created? To me, that's an incredibly important question that cannot be glossed over. I know we've argued about this before, but I don't think I ever got a satisfactory answer.

    It’s not that there’s little interest, Michelle, and it’s not that the Creator was created. He’s Creator, not creature. What kind of answer would suffice – we of course wonder about how God can be eternal and outside of time, limitations, etc; and metaphysically there are what one would call “proofs”, that is, reasonable evidence for a Creator. I can dig some stuff up later if you still want to go into it.

    Also, an aside: Nubby, in case I forget, I did see some of your comments on evolution on another post - please, please, if you do nothing else, read up more on it. I know Zach in real life and I can vouch for his understanding of evolution. He's right about Adam and Eve.

    All due respect, Zach’s replies were muddled and confused. And for charity’s sake, that’s all I’m gonna say about that. Catch up after weekend.

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  116. * correction: atheist, Oxford professor Penrose. Not 'atheists'.

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  117. The "truth" is written down, though, no? Isn't that what the Catechism is (though I know that has undergone some changes)? I already said I was impressed that it had lasted so long, but just because it has doesn't mean it's true. Heck, I'd argue that the fact it hasn't changed isn't necessarily even a good thing! I did try to find an answer, though - I tried quite a few different things, which seemed plausible to me, all of which were struck down as wrong because I didn't say "God did it." My point in bringing up Protestantism wasn't to criticize it as being chaotic, by the way. It was to indicate that the Church had, in a way, changed. It'd be like saying at the time of the Civil War that the US hadn't changed because there was still an intact North, ignoring the seceding South. Also, what about this? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Schism

    You know, I was going to give the Jesus story another shot. But really, I think if you look back, I did give some suggestions and links, all of which were deemed totally implausible based on human nature (not sure why what we know of human nature should trump what we know of human biology, but apparently it does). I'm pretty sure nothing I say will be accepted as a legitimate answer.

    It still doesn't make sense, and answers none of the questions I posed. God absolutely does require an explanation, though. To me, using God to explain everything we see, but stopping short of explaining God, is intellectually dishonest. I've asked all sorts of questions about this, in multiple posts, and all have essentially been ignored. Why is that? Why am I the only one asking these questions, and everyone else is more than happy to push them aside as irrelevant? It makes no sense.

    Okay. I think I'm done here, as I'm going to have no time to comment for quite a while. I might check back, but can't promise any further contributions. Thanks for the discussion, as always!

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  118. Nubby, no comment on the fact that God is also a untestable hypothesis? I know there are issues with Hawking's book, but why are his unfalsifiable hypotheses wrong and yours are right? I hope you can see the double standard here.

    Yes, please, if there's anything about the issue of God just existing without having developed or been created himself, I would love to see it. I'm going to call it quits on commenting after tonight, but I'll check back if you can leave some links. Thank you!

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  119. Michelle, Protestantism is not the Catholic Church! Its very name indicates that it exists in PROTEST to the Catholic Church.

    This Catechism was promulgated about 15 years ago, as a summary of the Faith. So, no, that does not explain why the Church has not changed teaching in 2,000 years, when everything we know of lived history and human nature would say that such a thing is impossible. Unless God were protecting the Truth supernaturally. Which He is.

    Anyway, I am happy to leave this discussion where it stands. It's been a good exercise, and I hope the lurkers got something of worth out of it!

    Blessings!

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  120. One more thing, Michelle: With the question of Jesus' dying and rising, I was not looking for links, unless the links can give the alternate scenario which can be reasonable in light of what we know of human nature. I was looking for something very concreted, like, "After Jesus' body was placed in the tomb, the Apostles then...." or "After the wild dogs ate Jesus body, his followers then..."

    Something that could explain the actions of the Apostles after Jesus' torturous, public death, and in light of the fact that they were (understandably) scared out of their wits and were hiding.

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  121. not sure why what we know of human nature should trump what we know of human biology, but apparently it does

    Actually, this is odd to me. Many things in human nature are common sense, not refutable by anyone who knows actual humans. For example, you and I both can very easily assert that there are not twelve sane human beings alive who would knowingly, willfully consent to be tortured and murdered brutally for something that every one of them knows is a hoax. Especially when they can live peaceful, normal lives by simply stating the obvious truth. Can we agree?

    Biology is natural. God is supernatural. Meaning, above nature (not opposed to it).

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  122. Still, though, not sure why what we know of human nature is more important than what we know of human biology. Human nature is amazingly variable, and people can be compelled to do incredibly irrational things if they believe in something strongly enough (human sacrifice, for instance - it goes against nature to kill people for no earthly reason, but people from lots of belief systems did it. It goes against human nature to intentionally starve yourself, but people from lots of belief systems do it, and so on). Human biology, for the most part, is pretty predictable: once you're dead, that's it. I would not say that the biologically impossible must have happened because people couldn't possibly have done irrational things. That's not logical at all.

    With that, I'm really done here. Thanks for the discussion! I wish we could have reached some more satisfying conclusions (and that some of my other, more inconvenient questions about the existence of God could have been answered...) but perhaps that will come another time!

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  123. people can be compelled to do incredibly irrational things if they believe in something strongly enough

    But that is the thing: In the scenario posited, NO ONE believed that Jesus rose, they believed he died! So, your statement is irrelevant to the scenario. They knew it was a hoax. What did they presumably "believe in strongly enough"? Their leader, who they thought was the Messiah, was dead. They knew all was lost and that Jesus was not who he said he was. You can find twelve men (and more!) who would willingly be tortured and die for a man who was nothing but a fraud and who was stone, cold dead? Michelle, you couldn't even find one, much less twelve, much less thousands.

    ????

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  124. But I do appreciate your kind spirit and spirited debate! Thanks!! :)

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  125. Michelle, I am late is the game, but let me take a stab at the freewill thing.

    It's like this: God has seen the movie of your life. He knows what decisions you will make because He has foreknowledge; He has seen the decisions, but He hasn't made them for you. Imagine your favorite movie - you know how it ends, but do you make it end that way? No, because those characters made their own decisions. You did not control any of their decisions, you simply watched them. Because you have seen the movie, you know how it ends. But you do not make it end that way,

    Yes, God has foreknowledge of whether you will get a dog or a cat, but only because He has already seen your future. He is not determining your future, you are.

    However, the entire argument is pointless if you do not believe that God is all knowing. To understand freewill, you have to understand that God has already seen every possible outcome. But again, seeing does not equal causing.

    I hope that makes a little more sense. It's how I used to explain freewill to my students.

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  126. Respectfully, what Scriptures affirm that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was sinless?As a Protestant, I feel like we are getting lumped together as ignorant of Scripture and Church history :). I have studied both, so I am not ignorant, but I do have questions :)

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  127. Rachel, excellent analogy with the movie! Thank you!!

    As to the Scriptural basis of Mary's sinlessness, first I would just throw in the caveat (which I am assuming you know, but just in case) that we Catholics do not believe in sola scriptura, so not every Christian truth is found explicitly in Scripture. However, Truth can never contradict Scripture. For a start on the biblical and historical basis of Mary's sinlessness, start here:

    http://www.catholic.com/library/Immaculate_Conception_and_Assum.asp

    and here:

    http://www.catholic.com/library/Mary_Full_of_Grace.asp'

    Martin Luther himself held fast to the belief of Mary's sinlessness and perpetual virginity, long after he'd left the Church and lived by sola scriptura.

    I certainly don't mind a Protestant with questions, and I am glad you are here! You are my sister in Christ.

    Blessings!

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