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John the Baptist and Iraq

The beheading of JBapIt appears that in some places not much has changed.  Herod beheaded John the Baptist because of his witness to the truth of his unlawful and incestuous marriage.

Today, especially in Iraq and Syria, IS literally beheads Christians because of their witness to the truth of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, news outlets in the United States speak little of this horrendous persecution.  What Christians are going through in that region dwarf the persecutions under Emperors Diocletian and Marcus Aurelius in ancient Rome.

There are a few lessons to be learned here.  First, religion was not, is not, and will not ever be a private matter.  This is especially true of the biblical religions such as Islam, Christianity and Judaism.  They believe in a God of history, a God who is intimately involved in the lives of human individuals, communities, and entire civilizations.  Part of his involvement includes divine law which guides how we are to live together.

Because of this, biblical religions, if they remain faithful to the public aspect of their faith, will always influence everyone around them even if they claim that religion is strictly private.

This leads to a potential for great and transformational good as well as great and destructive evil.  Jesus Christ calls his disciples the light of the world and a leaven of the Kingdom of God.  This means that Christians are to influence the world by bringing the light of Christ to bear on all.  This takes place through gentle charity and mercy in both words and deeds.  It includes a civil aspect in that Christians must engage in the public sphere of politics and institutions in order to be that transformational leaven.

Because of that, the history of the world shows how Christianity forever shaped and molded the entire world.  It also shows how the influence of Christianity threatened the existence and power of those who wished to impose other kinds of orders.  These powers include the governments of Ancient Rome (initially), Nazi Germany, and Communist Russia.  Christianity diametrically opposed, by it’s very existence and mission, the worldviews and influence of these powers.  This is especially true in the case of the Catholic Church, which exists as a tangible and global institution.

In these cases, this diametric opposition motivated these powers to deal with Christianity in a most brutal matter–oppression, forced conversion, and murder.  Since much has been said about Christians doing the same in it’s own history, I need not do more than to mention it.  I propose only to concentrate on the topic of Christian persecution because of current events, which are under-reported.

In Iraq and Syria, non-Muslims, especially Christians, are slaughtered by the thousands and driven out of their homes by the 10’s of thousands.

children-iraqThat this takes place in the modern world shows the need for constant vigilance in maintaining a culture of friendship and religious tolerance based on the dignity of the human person and the recognition of religion’s place in the public sphere.  It also necessitates strong opposition to all forms of religious persecution by the media, the public, and governments.  Such opposition should include the possibility of the use of force in the form of sanctions, blocking of resources, and diplomatic pressure.

Let us pray for the end of all religious persecution, a growing friendship among Christians and Muslims, and peace among nations.

Whom is America Thanking on Thanksgiving?

As we finish celebrating Thanksgiving, and simultaneously approach the federal elections of 2012, we ponder much both as Americans and as Christians.

The public American culture continues its march into secularism.  Yet we celebrate a holiday which has its origin and substance in publicly celebrating religious beliefs.  To be clear, Thanksgiving has its roots and identity in the religious beliefs contained in sacred scriptures used by both Jews and Christians.

The first historical account of a thanksgiving feast celebrated in America took place in 1621.  The pilgrims offered a feast of thanksgiving recognizing the God given gifts of liberty, life and sustenance that they enjoyed amidst many hardships.

By 1863, the colonies had transformed into the free republic of the United States of America.  It already had an identity to which it could point when Abraham Lincoln urged for defense against secession–even unto Civil War.

At the height of this war, the president declared a national holiday of Thanksgiving.  Once again, amidst hardship, the people of these colonies took time to give thanks.

Once again, the people of these colonies looked to almighty God–the God of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph–the God of Jesus Christ.

Lest there be any doubt of this fact, we need only refer to president Lincoln’s words.  He begged all Americans to ask God “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”

Lincoln, himself a supporter of religion and a promoter of the truth of the scriptures, seems to refer here to the God who is on the side of the widow and the orphan, and the God who heals.

Now I do not write this article to engage in the question of whether or not the United States should in principle maintain a public religious identity.  That is a much larger question.

Answering such a question would demand a closer analysis of the institutional and social fabric that weaves this nation together as a liberal democratic republic (liberal in the traditional sense of the word).

Rather, I simply demonstrate here the fact of the public religious identity of this nation in the past, especially in the case of Thanksgiving.

This fact begs the question: what happens when a nation divorces its public life from its previous religious identity?

I could attempt to answer this question with another: whom is America thanking on Thanksgiving?

Thank is a transitive verb.  It must have an object to which it is directed.  Its very grammatical structure connotes relationship.  I give thanks to someone else for having received something from that person.

So whom is America thanking and for what are we thankful?

Surely we can be thankful to our veterans, our parents, our civil servants, our bankers, our waiters, our janitors, our ministers, even our lawyers.  But whom do we thank for these?  Whom do we thank for the freedom and the gifts given to these folks?

Or do we simply take these for granted?

We could take the approach of the agnostic and say that we do not know who to thank and so we should shrug our shoulders and simply be thankful.

We could take the approach of the atheist, who usually adapts the naturalistic scientific method as the only means to grasp truth.  The atheist might say that we need not thank anybody.  All that we have received are the results of inevitable material events in our universe–including our sentiments of gratitude.

Finally, we could take the approach of both Jews and Christians.  Biblical religion continues to teach that giving thanks to God is good and salvific.

For that reason, in the Catholic Mass the priest prays in the preface to the second Eucharistic Prayer: “Father, it is our duty and salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ.”

Catholics understand that giving thanks to God is our salvation.  We believe that we are saved by the Eucharist.  Eucharist is the English translation of the Greek verb eucharistein.  This means “to give thanks.”

Pope Benedict in his Introduction to Christianity had this to say about salvation:

For the salvation of the mere individual there would be no need of either a Church or a history of salvation, an Incarnation or a Passion of God in this world.

But precisely at this point we must also add the further statement: Christian faith is not based on the atomized individual but comes from the knowledge that there is no such thing as the mere individual, that, on the contrary, man is himself only when he is fitted into the whole: into mankind, into history, into the cosmos, as is right and proper for a being who is “spirit in body” (245).

Jesus did not come to save man as an individual because man as a mere individual does not exist.  Jesus came to save the whole of man.  He came to save all that is human.  This includes the public life of human society, in which functions the mechanism of the state.

The exceptional character of the United States both as a society and as a state may indicate and prefigure the kind of salvation Jesus offers humanity.  I say this not to intimate a divine ordination of the US as a chosen race and a royal priesthood.

Rather, what I am saying is the understanding and defense of equality, human dignity, and the rights of life and the pursuit of happiness form the core of the democratic society that Americans enjoy and the world tries to emulate.  These principles owe their development to Christianity.

The pilgrim’s prayer of 1621 and Lincoln’s declaration echoed this arguable fact.

So I pose the question again: whom is America thanking on Thanksgiving for all that America is?

If thanksgiving is our salvation, this is not an unimportant question.

Please feel free to submit a response.  All comments are moderated.

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Top Ten Reasons To Be Catholic

Last Saturday afternoon I gave a workshop at the Archdiocesan Conference of Catholic Youth Ministry.  The topic: Top Ten Reasons to Become Catholic and Ways of Evangelizing.

From personal experience as a priest and after consulting with the almighty Google search engine, this is the information that I found.

The top ten reasons, listed in no particular order, why people are Catholic:

1. The Promise of the Holy Spirit

John 20:21-23  Jesus says to his disciples: “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

We believe that the Holy Spirit preserves the Catholic Church as a family that follows faithfully, however sinfully, the teachings of Jesus Christ.

This is rather a matter of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit than it is a matter of trust that “we are right and you are wrong.”

2. Pope and Bishops

The Catholic Church has the great gift of visible authority that can be historically linked all the way to the apostles.  With this gift comes the sense of being sent by Christ through his servants on earth.

At the end of every Mass you are sent by Christ through the priest who says, “GO in the peace of Christ.”  This means you are sent into the world to be the peace of Christ.

3. Sacrament of Holy Eucharist

In John 6 we read how many of Jesus disciples left him because of the Eucharist.  Many could not handle that Jesus wanted to be that close and intimate with them as to give his body and blood.

This is the center of who we are.  The Son of God becomes food for us and makes us one Church.

4. Sacrament of Reconciliation

Jesus forgave sinners with his own voice.  Now he does it through the audible voice of the priest.

The great gift of reconciliation is the assurance that comes from receiving forgiveness from one who has been chosen by Christ to “bind and loose” sins and behalf of the community, whom I offend with every sin.

The great gift of the sacrament is that I speak to another person about my sins so that my struggle with sin is aided by another person who also struggles…and can help clarify confusion that I might have about sin and grace.

5. We Are Sacramental

God did not mess up when he made us physical beings.  For that reason the Son become physical and now he saves us in physical ways: bread, wine, oil, water, words, priests, altars, scriptures, the Church family, etc.

6. The Sacred Scriptures

The Catholic Church put together the group of books that we call “The Bible.” Even non-Catholic Christians use the same group of books to this day (with the exception of some books that some consider non-inspired).

We continue to enjoy the sacred scriptures at every Mass, wedding, baptism, funeral, bible study, communion service, confirmation, and religious education class.  We are a people of the Word!

7. The Blessed Virgin Mary

Since before the third century, Christians have enjoyed a special relationship with the Blessed Mother.  We call her theotokos, Mother of God.  We consider her to be a friend, a fellow disciple, and a powerful intercessor.

Most importantly, Jesus gave her to us to be our mother (John 19).  To be part of the intimate life of Jesus means getting to know his mother and ours.

8. The Saints

When someone asks us, “Why do you pray to the saints. Why do you have statues and pictures of them and holy cards?”  We simply say, “they’re friends of ours.”

9.  Parish Community

Following Jesus is not meant to be done alone.  Jesus wants to save not just individual souls but everyone together (John 17).  That’s why we gather as a parish family.

10.  Evangelization

The Christian religion is a religion of action.  Remember that the Lord did not just want us to experience salvation in heaven but also here on earth.  Part of the great joy of salvation is to do His work.  That is why He sends us out to evangelize! (Matthew 28)

Why are you Catholic?  Feel free to submit your answer below.

Please feel free to submit a response.  All comments are moderated.

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There Is No Heaven Or Afterlife – I Agree

If you have already read the original article, please scan below to read the replies that followed.

In this article Stephen Hawking said that there is no afterlife for us because our brains are essentially computers, and there is no afterlife for broken-down computers.

Let me preface my response by saying that I have great respect for Stephen Hawking and his work which has advanced astrophysics beyond what we could have possibly imagined.

His published works have also granted to millions of people access to concepts of the universe that would have remained in the obscurity of advanced academia.

After years of studying aerospace engineering I have come to appreciate at a deeper level the gift that is the naturalistic scientific method (which in current parlance is called ‘science’).

To respond to Hawking when he says there is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers: I agree.  If all that we are can be reduced to the material construct of the brain, then, indeed there cannot possibly be an afterlife, much less a heaven.

With respect and deference to Hawking, I would like to attempt to explain where Hawking is coming from and why his position is very reasonable.

Humanity has responded to reality in three ways: magical, metaphysical, and scientific.

The magical primarily followed the basic religious instinct engrained in human nature.  Included in this instinct was the desire and ability to connect cause and effect, and therein find meaning.

Out of this arose within the cultural and societal framework various spiritualities that sought to explain the universe as a whole, and to relate to it in order to master it or be at peace with it.

Within this net of interconnecting yet specialized religions evolved an altogether unique religion by virtue of its monotheistic and personal character: Judaism.

In the context of Judaism, and later Christianity, and especially in their contact with Greek philosophy, humanity reached a basic response to reality that can be summed up in the Scholastic articulation: verum est ens (being is truth).

This is the metaphysical response to reality.

However, this understanding was turned on its head as early as the 17th century.  Pope Benedict XVI points to Giambattista Vico, an Italian philosopher, for laying the ground work for this reversal with his own formula verum quia factum (we can only truly know what we have made for ourselves) (ITC, 59).

So, only that which is truly knowable is what we can do and make for ourselves.  All this talk about being grounded in essence and substance was purely indemonstrable and therefore meaningless.

We access meaning through that which we do, with mathematics (Descartes) and history (Hegel).

Yet, there were limitations even found here.  After all, the past is past and mathematics seems trapped in its own world.  Karl Marx showed the way to reach true knowledge…by doing!

Truth was found in the future and in shaping the world, verum quia faciendum.

Still more limitations were found in this way of knowing the truth.  The historical approach and the investigation of facts proved too vulnerable to the subjectivity of the human person.  We have all heard the phrase, “history is written by the winner.”

Greater weight was placed on the repeatable and verifiable in order to separate from human bias.

For this reason, the naturalistic scientific method has become for many, including Hawking, the exclusive means for accessing the truth of all that is.

To summarize: “We are inclined today as a matter of course to suppose that only what is palpably present, what is ‘demonstrable’, is truly real” (Benedict XVI, 57).

According to this presupposition, there is no possibility of heaven or an afterlife.

Yet, that is a major presupposition which, interestingly, is not proven by the naturalistic scientific method.  In other words, science does not demonstrate that only that which science demonstrates is real.

Where does that presupposition come from? I submit to you it comes from faith.

It is faith in the naturalistic scientific method as the only reliable means to access knowledge of what is real.

This leads to the presupposition that the naturalistic scientific method is the only reliable means to access knowledge of what is real.

It includes the corollary that if God exists, he must be scientifically demonstrable.

God has not been scientifically demonstrated, therefore we cannot say that God exists.

It includes the corollary that if the human person survives death, this fact must be scientifically demonstrable.

Human survival after death has not been scientifically demonstrated, therefore we cannot say that the human person survives death.

Therefore, there is no afterlife.

Notice the irony.

The very method that is supposed to ‘save’ us from human bias in order to get at the truth has been used as an instrument of the greatest human bias operable in the modern mind: nothing exists that cannot be materially observed.

As you can see, such a perspective is trapped in its own sandbox.

It denies other human senses of observation of the universe, notably, the human heart.

If one includes the human heart as an instrument of observation along with the other five, the universe breaks out of the the sandbox and suddenly we find another element not numbered on the periodic tables and not included in the star charts.

Yet this element speaks to us through the very things which the tables and charts display: love.  I propose that this element includes the loving relationship between God and his knowing creatures.

According to this perspective, there is an afterlife and there is a heaven.  But unlike the scientist who lacks self-awareness, we do not pretend to say this with certainty but with open faith.

Feel free to submit a comment. Please note that all submissions are moderated.

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May 24, 2011

Comment Submitted by George B.

There are 4 possible scenarios to answer this:

Yes, there is a Heaven and a hell and we live our lives like we believe this and hopefully get our reward.

Don’t believe that there is a Heaven, but still live our lives as God intended and at the end that’s it, it’s all over.

Don’t believe in Heaven and live our lives in evil ways and after we die find out that there is hell.

Believe in Heaven and hell, but still live our lives in evil ways until we die and at the end that’s it, nothing more.

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May 24, 2011

Comment Submitted by Beth C.

I would also comment on the relationship Abraham had with God.  For Abraham was opened to hearing God’s call and therefore was able to have a sincere relationship with Him.

“Out of this arose within the cultural and societal framework various spiritualities that sought to explain the universe as a whole, and to relate to it in order to master it or be at peace with it.

Within this net of interconnecting yet specialized religions evolved an altogether unique religion by virtue of its monotheistic and personal character: Judaism”

I see a corner science has painted itself in.  Without true self awareness, we find ourselves losing faith in anything other than what we can see and prove.

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May 24, 2011

Faith is certainly an attitude that is fundamental to every human being. Everyone who lives has faith in something, even if they don’t realize it.

FC

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June 06, 2011

The following comments came in on Facebook. With the author’s permission, Tom B. and Ramiro G., I have replicated the most essential here:

Reply submitted by Tom B.

The actual quote was, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail……” HE regards.

I don’t know any scientist who will say something does not exist because they can’t prove that it exits. Science develops theories and disproves theories all the time.

Oh yeah, about that Church and Galileo thing……

Fr. Christopher Plant’s article seemed to me to be a somewhat mild attack in the ongoing battle between religion and science. Like clockwork-for the last 1500 years:
1) Science proclaims a new finding
2)Church attempts to crush heretic
3)As evidence grows, Church tries to find a compromise

4) The new finding is confirmed as a law of nature and the Church indulges in a field of study known as apologetics, saying there never was any conflict.

This has happened so many times, that the Church of 500 years ago and the Church of today are completely unrecognizable!

I’m just saying, “If the Church was truly the source of All Truth, then it would have been on the cutting edge of science, not the persecutors of it.”

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June 06, 2011

Reply submitted by Ramiro G.

Tom, the original post was solely in regard to the fallacy of “scientism”- the belief that science alone can explain all things.

I think your comments have created a divergence to this point—which is ok but I just want to point that out. Do you disagree?

Now regarding your last comment, I’m willing to acquiesce to your first 3 points as I see no real problem with them at all. I think they represent the proper role of science and church. Great points by the way!

However, regarding your 4th point, you obviously subscribe to the belief that science and religion are at odds because you use the words “ongoing battle.” Am I right?

If not, then never mind, but if so, I’d be very interested in reading specific examples from you that can backup your general statements in #4 and following.

In other words, if there are so many times that this has occurred, then can you please provide a few examples of what science has proven that directly contradicts the Christian religion? And specifically how did the Church persecute it in the examples you provide?

As for me, I accept the notion that the war between science and religion is a myth.  As Rev. Barron states:

This myth is so much nonsense. Leaving aside the complexities of the Galileo story (and there are complexities to it), we can see that the vast majority of the founding figures of modern science—Copernicus, Newton, Kepler, Descartes, Pascal, Tycho Brahe—were devoutly religious.

More to it, two of the most important physicists of the 19th century—Faraday and Maxwell—were extremely pious, and the formulator of the Big Bang theory was a priest!

If you want a contemporary embodiment of the coming-together of science and religion, look to John Polkinghorne, Cambridge particle physicist and Anglican priest and one of the best commentators on the non-competitive interface between scientific and religious paths to truth.

Indeed, as Polkinghorne and many others have pointed out, the modern physical sciences were, in fact, made possible by the religious milieu out of which they emerged.

It is no accident that modern science first appeared precisely in Christian Europe, where a doctrine of creation held sway…This is why thoughtful Christians must battle the myth of the eternal warfare of science and religion.

We must continually preach, as John Paul II did, that faith and reason are complementary and compatible paths toward the knowledge of truth. ”

Please tell me what you think about what I’ve said. I hope I’m making sense. I think this is a pretty good discussion. Thanks!

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June 06, 2011

Reply submitted by Tom B.

Sorry for the divergence but for those who embrace empiricism and reason above the supernatural and paranormal, Plant’s article was somewhat hurtful.

When someone puts forward a scientific theory that religious critics really don’t like, they just try to discredit it as ‘scientism’.

He has infered that scientism is a psychological form of belief and many would construe that as a religion itself.

Plant states that (concerning the metaphysical response to realilty) ” All this talk about being grounded in essence and substance was purely indemonstrable and therefore meaningless.”

Is the power of faith demonstrable without using feel-good stories, what you know or feel in your heart, the supernatural or the paranormal? (No, I am not an atheist!)

From what I have read over the last 30 years, there were several instances where the Church has persecuted those who have been at odds with them over things like flat earth, center of the universe and the existence of ether but I would prefer not to provide examples because it would be a waste of my time.

Anyone can google these issues and get a wealth of information on them. I would like to only address this subject from here on out from my personal observations and experiences.

It is not suprising to me that these famous scientists proclaimed their devotion and allegiance to the Church.

I’m sure they were trying their best to understand how their findings could be reconciled to their religious beliefs.

But I have seen first-hand what happens to someone’s personal life when they tell their family and friends that they do not believe in Jesus Christ or God.

Would you really be suprised at how quickly the are ostracized from family, friends and coworkers?

In 1600, to claim an emphirical (sid) scientific finding was contrary to church doctrine was worse, seeing how the power and influence of the church was so much more then (Look up the word “heretic”).

Although I have not checked on the facts concerning the statement that “modern science first appeared precisely in Christian Europe” I would seriously doubt that.

The Chinese had developed gunpowder, paper, printing and the compass while Europeans were just figuring out which end of the ox to hook the plow to!

I exaggerate of course, but this is common knowledge.

I would, however agree that science and religion arose together. I really like the way Plant presented human response to reality “… in three ways: magical, metaphysical, and scientific.”

I believe the points he makes are valid. But let’s not forget that science marches on. I have confidence that science will someday be able to explain the human soul.

(I know I’m going out on a limb here and it kind of scares me what some of the folks reading this will think of me. I realize I’m up against Phd’s and all I have under my belt is a few book reports in high school!)

Both religion and science have tried to explain why things are as they are but as science solves another mystery, religion loses ground.

I believe this is because many in the church are hung up on the historicity of the bible instead of the quality and meaning of its mythology.

(No, no,no…the word myth does not mean “lie”. I believe Rev. Barron has used the word quite improperly– a common mistake.)

I’m so sorry but I must end with a quote from Joseph Campbell

( I see you making a face, Mr. Plant!)

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June 06, 2011

Mr. Tom B. I only have an expression of excitement since finally the blog has accomplished its purpose – intelligent conversation among thoughtful people about things that ultimately matter.

You have said much and there is much to which I would like to reply.

I’m afraid I do not have the time to do the extensive historical research to give you an adequate response to that aspect of this conversation.

So, as for the historical aspect, allow me to indulge in some rough summaries, remembering that to summarize is ultimately to falsify.

First, a distinction about the word “church.”  For us Catholics, Church, like family, is a complex and mysterious reality.

We have the benefit, after a couple of millenia of theological reflection by many bright and faithful minds, of viewing our church with different models.

The Sacramental Model looks at the Church as an incarnation of Jesus Christ in the world through the visible sign of all that the Church is.

The Verbum Model looks at the Church as that which reveals God’s self-revelation to the world by teaching the Sacred Scriptures.

The Mystical Body Model looks at the Church as a reality that transcends the boundaries of life and death and unites all of its individual members into the Body of Christ.

The Institutional Model looks at the Church primarily as a visible institution hierarchically structured by Christ.

These are very crude summaries of these models, and there are more.  But I have displayed these models only to set the background for my concluding statements on the historical aspect of our conversation.

The Institutional Model, because it is indeed the most visible and obvious even to the non-believer, is often the exclusive view of what the Church is, even among believers.

As a result, I think so many of us Catholics can have a knee-jerk defensiveness when it comes to the imperfect history of the Catholic Church as an institution.

Yet, as my examples show above, this is certainly not the case.

As a matter of fact, if everything visible about the Church were destroyed except the people and the priests, the Church would still remain just as who she really is in this world:

Christ present in her sinful members through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now for my final response to the historical aspect to this conversation: The Institutional Church has made mistakes in the past, and will most likely continue to do so.

If you don’t mind me saying so, it appears that none of us engaged in this dialogue are well-read concerning the history surrounding the relationship between science and religion.

I’m afraid a “Google” search on keywords can yield quite unedited and sometimes inaccurate representations of what has happened in the past.

In addition, even among academics, which ultimately produce what we read as textbooks, there exist controversies over the precise sequence of events surrounding the development of the relationship between Science and Religion.

As a result, cause and effect are even harder to discern.

So please allow me to refocus our conversation on its original aspect, which may produce more fruit: the theoretical.

Tom, you said that I seem to infer that scientism is some psychological form of belief that many would construe as a religion in itself.

Let me be quite clear, that is exactly what I am saying (setting aside the word “psychological” since I do not see how that qualifier adds or takes away from “form of belief”).

Scientism, understood as holding the naturalistic scientific method as that by which we can apprehend all of reality, is a religious belief.

It is religious because it is a view of what is ultimately real in this world and it provides a code for responding to that reality.

It is belief because it can only be adopted by human volition, if you will, the heart (the center of the human person, the preconscious according to Jaques Maritain in Degrees of Knowledge, the appetite of the contemplative soul according to St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologia).

Scientism can only be adopted by the human heart because of its very definition.  It is adopted with an intellectual attitude entirely different from that which we use when we apply the naturalistic scientific method.

The naturalistic scientific method employs only empirical methods of observation and inductive reasoning therefrom, although scientists rely on scientific tradition based on trust in various scientific institutions.

This method is a closed system that works very well within its own logic.  And it has helped us in so many ways.

With that last sentence I have already shown the limitation of this closed system.  The method does not show what is “helpful” and what isn’t, what “works” and what doesn’t.

Nor does it say what we should accept as proven or verified.

In other words, it is impossible to verify through the naturalistic scientific method that the naturalistic scientific method is that by which we should apprehend all of reality.

If anything other than the naturalistic scientific method is used to verify that the naturalistic scientific method is that by which we should apprehend all of reality, the conclusion is nonsense.

It is nonsense for two reasons.

First, there cannot be imagined any set of experiments or observations by which one can set out to prove the hypothesis that the naturalistic scientific method is that by which we should apprehend all of reality.

I would be very interested in hearing a proposal on how it can be done.

Second, no list of experiments or observations can prove or verify this because of the very nature of what it means for something to be “proven” or “verified.”

Let’s take the two words as synonymous for the sake of discussion.

When something is proven, it means that it is held before us as something that we cannot refuse to be true, at least not without violating other principles we have already held to be true.

So if I hold something to be true, I am making a choice (often without much effort or reflection) to accept it as reality and as my reality.
It’s not just the objective truth, it is also my truth.

And this choice is based on other truths that I have come to accept.

Example: I hold as true that my parents are trustworthy.  If my brother tells me that he called my mom yesterday, and I doubted him, I would ask my mother.  If she told me that he called her yesterday, that proves to me that he did.

Based on the first principle that my parents are trustworthy, I accept as proven that my brother called my mother because my mother told me she did.

Because what is acceptable as proven is subjective, that is, based on the person and their own first principles, what is proven for one may not be proven for others.

In that sense, neither the naturalistic scientific method nor the supernaturalistic scientific method (my term) necessarily prove anything.

Neither method cuts away the fundamental human experience of uncertainty.

Neither method cuts away the human need to make a decision to accept as true some fundamental principles by which all others may be “proven.”

In other words, neither method cuts away the human need to believe religiously.

Proof proceeds from belief, even if that proof was derived with the assistance of the naturalistic scientific method.

The naturalistic scientific method in itself is irreligious.  To accept it as a means by which all truth is proven is religious.

If I may say so, your very words give something away: “For those who embrace empiricism and reason above the supernatural and paranormal, Plant’s article was somewhat hurtful.”

What is it to embrace something but to believe in it?

-FC

P.S. The Christian Religion is reasonable because it reaches logical conclusions based on first principles.  Thus, faith and reason are both equally necessary for the Catholic Christian.

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Please feel free to submit a response.  All comments are moderated.

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Christian Faith – How To Summarize It

To be Christian is to be excessive, according to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI). In Part Two of “Introduction to Christianity” Pope Benedict lays out principles of Christian Structures.

This, in a way, concerns the unique characteristics of Christian faith.

It is striking that he actually disassembles at some point the most common ways that Christians define themselves. If someone were to ask me, “you, Christian! Tell me a summary of what you believe. What is the center of your faith?”

My first inclination perhaps would be to mention the Creed—which is not a bad place to begin. After all, the Creed in its most original form was precisely a dialogue with the world upon the occasion of initiation in the Church and the life of Christian Faith.

However, Pope Benedict disassembles this way of proclaiming the faith to unbelievers showing that so much of the language of the Creed presupposes that any of that stuff is relevant and important to the one professing it.

Yet, there appears a complete disconnect between the language of the Creed and the language of the unbeliever. Indeed, most Americans have heard the Creed before, or even recited it themselves throughout the duration of their worship experience in childhood.

At the same time, the separation between the words of the Creed and what many Americans truly believe gapes large. Do we not hear as popular expressions the following?:

“It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe.”

“I don’t belong to any religion but I am very spiritual.”

“I don’t believe all that dogma but I believe in Jesus.”

“All Christians are pretty much the same.”

To say any one of these expressions is to categorically contradict what the Creed proclaims. I realize that I have said too much here since I will not attempt to explain what people seem to mean when they say such things and why such things contradict the Creed.

I mention them at the risk of being misunderstood only to bring home the point that the question about the Creed and what it means to be truly Christian is a real issue in our daily lives.

For this reason, Pope Benedict’s reflection on the characteristics of Christianity are so very important and I will be focusing on those for the next several weeks. Next week I will begin with a meditation on the first law of the Christian Structure: The Individual and the Whole.

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Responses

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At the heart of Christian Faith is our Creed. There isn’t just one part of the Creed that is to be believed. The whole Creed is interconnected, each part meaning something to the whole.

The entire Creed is the most important foundation of faith, it defines it, explains it, and most of all, it inspires. – Camille G.

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Amen to that, Camille.  My question is, how does someone “deliver” the gift that is the Creed – namely, Jesus Christ?  Naturally, the angle of this question is on the explanation of the Creed as a means to summarize very briefly what a Christian believes. – Fr. Christopher

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