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From Rev. Dr Michel Remery M.Sc., the Vice Secretary General of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE), comes
the ideal book for young men and women who are curious about the Catholic faith!
For new Catholics and current catechumens, for anyone who wants to share his faith or freshen up his knowledge of the faith – TWEETING WITH GODis a perfect companion to the wildly popular youth catechism known as YOUCAT.
Watch the Book Trailer here!
Twitter is one of the most popular social media websites, with more than 200 million users worldwide. But how can Catholics best connect with God and spread their faith, especially via the social media platform that limits them to 140-character tweets? In his new book, TWEETING WITH GOD, Father Michael Remery provides tweets to 200 daring questions from young people about God, faith, and morality — among other topics. Father’s responses are in 140 characters or less, and provide expanded explanations based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church,YOUCAT and the Bible.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Fr. Michel Remery is a Dutch Catholic priest. He was a member of an advisory commission for new media and youth at the Vatican Internet Service and worked with young people and university students in Leiden, Netherlands. He is currently vice secretary general of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE).
After purchasing, download the TWEETING WITH GOD mobile-friendly app titled #TwGOD available through Google and iTunes to connect to YOUCAT and other resources while reading the book!
Pope Pius XII gives a blessing at the end of a radio message Sept. 1, 1943. His 1950 encyclical "Humani Generis" was written "concerning some false opinions threatening to undermine the foundations of Catholic Doctrine". (CNS file photo)
The Reasonable Character of the Credibility of the Christian Faith | Fr. James V. Schall, SJ | CWR
The Church understands that it needs thinkers to examine and explain why arguments are leveled against it and whether or not these arguments are valid
“Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church in order to gain eternal salvation. Others finally belittle the reasonable character of the credibility of the Christian faith.”
— Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis, August 12, 1950, #27.
Sometime in Holy Week, I chanced to watch a report on FOX News of some terrified African children being carted off by a Muslim group for death, forced conversion, or slavery. What struck me about this scene was not its uniqueness—such incidents seem to happen some place in the world most every day. What alerted me was the comment of an unknown reporter or observer who said: “There is no longer any place on the planet that is safe for Christians.”
I mentioned this incident to a friend who added: “It is no longer just a question of physical persecution, but the very ideas and beliefs of Christianity are rejected.” Christian beliefs have no “place” in any public order. The Catholic League noted the number of times that David Letterman mocked the Eucharist on several of his shows. We cannot mock anything black, Jewish, gay, or liberal, but we can ridicule Catholics and Christians.
In this context, it is only fair to say that many Catholics are themselves unclear about many things. Just what Cardinal Kasper understands by “mercy” and “divorce” is a widely controverted and by no means neutral question. The Indiana bishops seem not to have understood what religious freedom might mean for themselves if the government can force us to act against our conscience in order to have presence in a society. A modern version of the Christian Roman soldiers being forced to sacrifice to idols in order to serve the Emperor is taking place in the Hoosier State. Few can admit that the so-called “terrorists”, who seem to be everywhere telling us that they will make our cities run with blood, might well be valid Muslim followers as they think they are.
On reading John Rist’s remarkable book, Augustine Deformed (Cambridge, 2014), which concerns a rethinking of Genesis’ account of the Creation and the Fall, I was reminded of Pius XII's 1950 encyclical, Humani Generis, a much controverted document. I was struck by the passage cited above about the “reasonableness” of the “credibility” of the faith. Since the time of Pius XII, the relation of reason and revelation has become a familiar one. Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI devoted insightful considerations to this most important relationship. Meantime, the culture has largely gone relativist so that the very meaning of “reason” is undermined. Reason becomes merely a tool for us to make or get what we want, whatever the structure of the world might be.
I think it is fair to say that, with Pope Francis, we do not see as much emphasis on the intellectual side of the faith. To be sure, the faith itself presupposes that an intelligent seeking of truth is found among men prior to or aside from any question of faith. Strictly speaking, faith concerns God’s intelligence directed to our intelligence. Our “submission” to God’s intelligence and love is not apart from our effort to understand what is being presented to us as true. God does not contradict Himself or the laws of what He has created. Revelation, directly or indirectly, fosters and deepens understanding.
Pope Francis has not presented himself as an intellectual pope.
If you are curious, you ask questions - even about difficult topics. Can Catholic teaching provide answers relevant to your life today? In this book you will find 200 daring questions from young people about God, faith, prayer and morality. Fr. Michel Remery thoughtfully answers them all in Tweets of 140 characters or less, and provides expanded explanations based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Bible.
Fr. Remery shows how faith is logical, even in the 21st century! He introduces you to Jesus, shows you how to pray, and explains the sacraments. He explores some of the more difficult chapters of Church history, and helps you to discover what it means to live a good and purposeful life.
This book is ideal for:
young men and women who are curious about the Catholic faith
new Catholics and current catechumens
anyone who wants to share his faith or freshen up his knowledge of the faith
those who want to speak with others about the faith
It is lavishly illustrated with color images on every page of the book.
Fr. Michel Remery is a Dutch Catholic priest. After studying architecture at the university level, he worked for the Dutch Royal Air Force and then an engineering company in the Baltic States. Later, after finishing his theological studies in Rome, he completed a dissertation at the Pontifical Gregorian University on the relationship between liturgy and architecture. He was a member of an advisory commission for new media and youth at the Vatican Internet Service and worked with young people and university students in Leiden, Netherlands. He is currently vice secretary general of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE).
Praise for Tweeting with God:
“Combines the timeless teaching of our faith with the best of modern technology.” – @cardinaldolan, Archbishop of New York
“Provides a sound, concise summary of Church teaching.” – Most Rev. Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco
“Important pages for helping us to become the missionary disciples that we are meant to be.” – Most Rev. Jose Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles
“ #Fact: Tweeting with God is ingenious, timely, and attuned to the fast-paced, on-the-go, new-media dimension of the New Evangelization.” – @PatrickMadrid, Host of "Patrick Madrid Show"
“To learn how to effectively share your faith in the digital age, let Fr. Remery be your guide. No topic is off limits. He calmly accepts all questions about God, faith, morality, and the Church, using the Twitter-verse to probe the universe.” – @BrandonVogt, Content Director, Word on Fire Catholic Ministries
“Fr. Remery proves that employing the platform of Twitter to learn about, enthusiastically share, and fall in love with our Catholic faith can indeed have great impact on both the sender and the recipient. A must-have for anyone who desires to share their voice in the New Evangelization.” – Lisa Hendey, Founder, CatholicMom.com
A New Adventure with Steve Ray, the Catholic Indiana Jones!
presents ABRAHAM Father of Faith and Works
NEW YEAR – NEW FILM – NEW ADVENTURE WITH STEVE RAY! And ready for the “BIG SCREEN” in Your Parish in 2015!
Have you been following the Footprints of God from Ignatius Press and Steve Ray?
If you have, you already know there is nothing else like these fast-paced, entertaining, educational documentaries on our salvation history. If you haven’t, you’re in for a real treat!
These eight films combine the elements of a biography, travel documentary, Bible study and apologetics course all rolled into a remarkable, family friendly adventure! Each one is a 90-minute, stand-alone masterpiece taking the viewer to another time and place. With ABRAHAM you will travel with Steve back 4,000 years to Iraq, Turkey, Palestinian Territories and Israel. Have you ever seen a ziggurat? You will!
And now this much anticipated foundational film in the series, ABRAHAM: Father of Faith and Works, has been released as an exclusive parish screening program. Parishes, schools and organizations will be able to purchase a package that will include DVDs to have for sale or to gift, a free DVD for showing, promotional materials, and a 12-month site license to show the movie unlimited times in your facility or in a theater!
License holders will have 6 weeks of exclusive sales of the ABRAHAM DVD before general sales will start on March 17th.
FOOTPRINTS of GOD Parish Screening Program
And for those who would like to show all 8 Footprints of God DVDs now available: JESUS, MARY, PETER, PAUL, APOSTOLIC FATHERS, MOSES, DAVID/SOLOMONand ABRAHAM, we have packages that include a 12-month site license to show all 8 DVDs as well as a free copy of each DVD to use for showing, copies of all the DVDs to sell or gift, and promotional materials.
Both of these parish screening programs make great evangelization tools and can be used as a fundraiser as well.
Click here to see an overview of the Footprints of God films.
For more information on packages and prices available as well as the forms to order your packages, please go to www.IPMovieNights.com and click on SPECIAL SCREENING PROGRAMS.
Supper at Emmaus, Bartolomeo Cavarozzi (1615-1625).
How to Read Christology and Still Keep Your Faith | Dr. Jake Yap | HPR
“Christology” is everywhere. That is, if we take its basic etymology and understand it simply as “speech concerning Christ.” People can utter his name flippantly, even blasphemously. Popular films and novels can be “christological.” And there are many serious books about Jesus, written for a mainstream, theologically-minded audience. As Gerhard Lohfink states in the preface of his Jesus of Nazareth: What He Wanted, Who He Was (2012): “There are innumerable books about Jesus. The reason is obvious: we can never finish with him, and every age must encounter him anew.”1 Lohfink says that, while some of these books on Jesus are very good, others are “very bad,” and the reason is that “they are far from understanding that the real ‘historical Jesus’ cannot be grasped independently of faith in him.”2 Here we can see three things: a judgment that some christological books can be “very bad,” the possibility of knowing and understanding the “real, ‘historical Jesus,’” and faith as one of the necessary criteria for interpreting him correctly.
Christology is also not immune to theological fashion. It is trendy. Theologians down the centuries, except for the few who are utterly “unworldly” and even saintly, compose their accounts of Christ not only to serve the truth, to enlighten believers, and to convince the skeptics; some also write Christologies to make a name for themselves, “to win a place in the biblical sun.”3
There are christological writings from various perspectives and contexts: liberationist, feminist, political, ecological, cultural, and so forth. Teilhard de Chardin’s “cosmic Christ” continues to appeal to certain readers. And if it could be argued that Christologies “from above” served well an earlier epoch when Christ’s divinity, robustly upheld, was gratefully received by believers, it is now asserted that such an approach fails to speak to a contemporary world that, on the one hand, has grown skeptical of the supernatural, and, on the other hand, sorely needs a human and humanizing Jesus. Lohfink writes:
So we see Jesus as an opium for the soul and as a political revolutionary. Here, he is the archetype of the unconscious, there a pop star. He appears as the first feminist and as the faithful advocate of bourgeois morality. Jesus is used by those who want to see nothing change in the Church, and he is used as a weapon against the Church. He is instrumentalized over and over again to confirm people’s own desires and dreams. At present, he must, above all, stand for the legitimation of universal tolerance, which is no longer interested in truth and, therefore, threatens to slide off into arbitrariness.4
So are there “many Christs”? Not at all. But the array of christological writings, each presenting an “interpretation” of Christ, can be bewildering. This essay addresses itself to Christians who are interested in reading Christology. More specifically, I write for those who wish to read and learn (and indeed there is much to learn) while keeping their creedal faith intact. I wish to help them to navigate the expansive terrain, the sheer scope of the literature, and to steer clear of landmines and trenches. For they will find it a formidable task, if no one will guide them through it. Any good theological library will have an extensive collection of christological literature. And every year, more and more books are being written, published, and promoted. Which ones should they read? By what criteria should they approach a particular author, adopt a particular perspective, embrace, or at least be sympathetic to, a particular interpretation? Let me offer six pieces of advice.
1. Trust the Gospels
“The key question for studying Jesus is,” according to N.T. Wright, “can we trust the Gospels?”5 This is a legitimate question, but to answer it more fully will take us far beyond an essay such as this. The short, correct, and defensible answer is: Yes, we can. Wright elaborates:
William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. (Photo courtesy of CL: www.catholicleague.org)
Catholicism and Secular Media: 10 Questions for Bill Donohue | Sean Salai, S.J. | CWR
“I am a civil rights leader who is expected to combat injustice,” says the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, “so being sensitive to bigots is not a priority.”
William A. Donohue is a New York-based author, sociologist and political activist who has been president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights since 1993. He holds a PhD in sociology from New York University and is an adjunct scholar at the Heritage Foundation. His last book was the 2012 best-seller Why Catholicism Matters: How Catholic Virtues Can Reshape Society in the 21st Century.
Mr. Donohue took over the Catholic League after the death of founding president Father Virgil Blum, S.J., in 1990. As president of the organization, he seeks to counter anti-Catholic bias in the secular media. I recently interviewed Mr. Donahue about his work by email.
You’ve spent much of your career fighting “defamation and discrimination” against Catholics in the American secular media. How do you understand these words?
We spend most of our time defending the institutional Church against defamation, and much less time defending individual Catholics against discrimination. Since the time of President John F. Kennedy, Catholic men and women have made great progress, but the defamation against the Church has grown much worse.
By defamation, I do not mean criticism; I mean insult. I do not have a problem with those who criticize the Church's positions on public policy issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, school vouchers, and the like. But if the comments hit below the belt—this is obviously a judgment call—that is a different issue.
What does defamation mean to you in the context of today’s public discourse?
It is not defamatory to harshly criticize a particular bishop or priest, but when sweeping generalizations are made about all bishops or priests, that is unfair and the offenders need to be called out on it. There is a difference between disagreement and disdain, and between statements meant to inform and those that are meant to hurt. For example, late-night TV talk-show hosts like to take pot shots at the pope, and when it is done in a light-hearted manner (most of Colbert's jokes are of this vein), then that is fine. But when the host becomes vile (Bill Maher is the classic example), then we are dealing with bigotry.
What do you believe is the biggest example of anti-Catholic bias in the U.S. today?
From Atheism to Catholicism, By Way of Truth and Beauty | CWR Staff | Catholic World Report
“All the different threads of my inquiries,” says Dr. Holly Ordway, “when followed up, led me to the same place: the Catholic Church.”
Dr. Holly Ordway is Professor of English and Director of the MA in Cultural Apologetics at Houston Baptist University. She holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her academic work focuses on imagination in apologetics, with special attention to the writings of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams; she teaches courses on apologetics, medieval culture and philosophy, and modern and post-modern culture.
Dr. Ordway's book Not God's Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (Ignatius Press, 2014) describes her journey from atheism to Christianity, and her subsequent entrance into the Catholic Church. She recently corresponded with Catholic World Report, discussing her life and beliefs as an atheist, her journey toward Christianity, the mistakes made by many Christians in conversing with atheists, and the main reasons why she became Catholic.
CWR: Early in Not God's Type, you state that as a young atheist, you thought that the “decisive argument against faith was that I could not believe, no matter how much I might want to.” What sort of understanding of “faith” did you have at that time? How might you respond now to an atheist who expresses a similar notion?
Dr. Ordway: I had the faulty (but common!) idea that faith meant blind faith: that is, believing something without evidence or even contrary to the evidence. Unfortunately, this is a misunderstanding that is propagated by many Christians. As an apologist, I’ve heard Christians say that they don’t want to know about evidence for the Resurrection or for the existence of God, because that will “diminish their faith.” It’s no wonder that many atheists conclude that ‘faith’ is a synonym for ‘ignorance’.
If having faith really did mean believing something without any grounding for that belief, I would never have been able to do it. I couldn’t then, and I can’t now: it’s simply not possible. It would be wishful thinking or self-deception.
So I would respond to an atheist with this objection, first of all, by saying that the word ‘faith’ is better understood as a form of trust, and in particular, trust of a person. I have to trust that my close friends are reliable, on the basis of my understanding of their character, from many observations and interactions over time. I can never prove that they aren’t secretly manipulating me for their own ends; I can only conclude that it is reasonable for me to trust them. I could be wrong, but that doesn’t make my faith in my friends irrational. Once you trust someone, then you are willing to accept what they say as true, even when you don’t have enough information to judge for yourself, because you have reason to believe that you can rely on them. That’s faith.
Hebrews 1:11 is an important verse to consider: “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. An atheist might point to “hoped for” and “not seen” as indicating that Scripture teaches blind faith. Not so! First, the key words are “assurance” and “conviction”: in order to have an assurance or a conviction of something, you must have some reasons for doing so. Second, ‘not seen’ does not mean ‘not real.’ There are plenty of things that are not seen and yet are completely real: my own consciousness, for instance, and all relationships between people. If you know that your mother, spouse, or child loves you, that is the conviction of something “not seen.” And that’s precisely what faith is.
CWR: You admit that after the 9/11 attacks, you found that “atheism was eating into my heart like acid.” What sort of conflicts or tensions were you experiencing? How did you try to resolve them?
Left: Detail from "Job and His Friends" (1869) by Ilya Repin [WikiArt.org]; right: British comedian and actor Stephen Fry [YouTube]
Stephen Fry, Job, and the Cross of Jesus | Fr. Robert Barron | CWR blog
The objection to God's existence and goodness uttered recently by the British writer, actor, and comedian is nothing new to Christians
The British writer, actor, and comedian Stephen Fry is featured in a YouTube video which has gone viral: over 5 million views as of this moment. As you may know, Fry is, like his British counterparts Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, a fairly ferocious atheist, who has made a name for himself in recent years as a very public debunker of all things religious. In the video in question, he articulates precisely what he would say to God if, upon arriving at the pearly gates, he discovered that he was mistaken in his atheism. Fry says that he would ask God why he made a universe in which children get bone cancer, a universe in which human beings suffer horrifically and without justification.
If such a monstrous, self-absorbed, and stupid God exists, Fry insists, he would decidedly not want to spend eternity with him. Now there is much more to Fry’s rant—it goes on for several minutes—but you get the drift.
To those who feel that Stephen Fry has delivered a devastating blow to religious belief, let me say simply this: this objection is nothing new to Christians. St. Paul, Origen, Augustine, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and many, many other Christian theologians up and down the centuries have dealt with it.
In fact, one of the pithiest expressions of the problem was formulated by St. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century.
I wrote this article about eight years ago, and it first appeared in the May/June 2007 issue ofThis Rock magazine (now called Catholic Answers Magazine). It was one of three articles on the theological virtues and apologetics, the other two being "An Apologetic of Hope" (Oct. 2006) and "Why Believe? An Apologetic of Faith" (Dec. 2007). Consider it a Valentine for all those who believe and all those who are skeptical.
Love and the Skeptic | Carl E. Olson
"The greatest of these," wrote the Apostle Paul, "is love" (1 Cor. 13:13). Many centuries later, in a culture quite foreign to the Apostle to the Gentiles, the singer John Lennon earnestly insisted, "All we need is love."
Different men, different intents, different contexts. Even different types of "love." You hardly need to subscribe to People magazine or to frequent the cinema to know that love is the singularly insistent subject of movies, songs, novels, television dramas, sitcoms, and talk shows—the nearly monolithic entity known as "pop culture." We are obsessed with love. Or "love." With or without quotation marks, it’s obvious that this thing called love occupies the minds, hearts, emotions, lives, and wallets of homo sapiens.
Yet two questions are rarely asked, considered, contemplated: Why love? And, what is love? These aren’t just good questions for philosophical discussions—these are important, powerful questions to use in talking to atheists and skeptics, for the question of love will ultimately lead, if pursued far and hard enough, to the answer of God, who is Love.
What is This Thing Called Love?
One man who spent much time and thought considering the why and how of love was Pope John Paul II. "Man cannot live without love," he wrote in Redemptor Hominis, his first encyclical. "He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it" (10).
That is a statement both St. Paul and John Lennon could agree with, for it states something that is evident to the thoughtful person, whether Christian or otherwise: I need love. I want to love. I am made for love.
CWR: Your new book, The New Geocentrists, takes on a topic you’ve followed and addressed for many years. First, what is geocentrism? Second, when and why did you first become interested in it?
Keating: Just as heliocentrism is the theory that the Sun is the center of our planetary system, so geocentrism is the theory that the Earth is the center. Geocentrism is the ancient understanding, best known in the formulation given by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy. The Ptolemaic theory was modified substantially in the sixteenth century by Tycho Brahe. Most modern geocentrists adhere to a variant of the Tychonian theory.
My interest in geocentrism goes back to my university days. I took a course in the history of science from Prof. Curtis Wilson, then and until his death in 2012 considered the top American expert on Johannes Kepler, who started out as Tycho’s assistant.
In Wilson’s course we took the ancient observational data, worked through the calculations, and discovered that, as observations became ever more precise, the Ptolemaic and Tychonian theories failed to account for the movements of the celestial bodies. It was this failure that led Kepler to develop his three laws of planetary motion, and it was this course that sparked my interest in geocentrism.
CWR: Why the need for a book-length treatment of geocentrism and its main proponents?
The Crusades 101 | Jimmy Akin | IgnatiusInsight.com
As conventionally reckoned, the Crusades were a set of eight expeditions to the East that occurred in just under a two-century period, from 1095 to 1270. The term crusade has since expanded to be applied to a wide variety of wars--especially ones involving religion--and even to things that are not wars at all (e.g., Billy Graham's evangelistic events). Here we will focus on the eight traditional Crusades.
Understanding the Crusades requires an appreciation of the events that led to them. Since the legalization of Christianity in the early 300s, European Christians had been conducting pilgrimages to Palestine in order to visit the holy sites associated with the life of our Lord. These pilgrimages were major exercises of piety, for in that age travel to the Holy Land was difficult, time-consuming, expensive, and dangerous. Some pilgrimages took years to complete.
Christians also went to Syria, Palestine, and Egypt in order to live ascetic lives. This was the age in which Christian monasticism blossomed, and numerous Christians were anxious to go to the Holy Land and Egypt in order to lead lives consecrated to God by asceticism. They also undertook the hardships of the journey. For both pilgrims and ascetics there was one factor ameliorating the journey: the path to Palestine went through Christian lands.
In A.D. 612, the Arabian Muhammad, son of Abdallah, reported receiving a prophetic call from God through the angel Gabriel. At first, he made few converts. However, after being driven from his native Mecca in 622, he found refuge in the city of Medina, where his followers increased. Mounting a military campaign, Muhammad conquered several pagan, Jewish, and Christian tribes and was able to seize control of his native Mecca, as well as all of Arabia. He died in 632.
Following his death, Muhammad's successors--the caliphs--continued an aggressive campaign of expansion. In less than a century they had seized control--among other lands--of Syria, Palestine, and North Africa. Though today we are used to thinking of these lands as Muslim, at the time they were Christian. It has been said that the expanding Muslim empire consumed half of Christian civilization. Even Europe itself was threatened. Muslims seized control of southern Spain, invaded France, and were threatening to invade Rome itself when their advance was defeated by Charles Martel at the battle of Poitiers in 732.
It had been a hard century.
After Muslim expansion in Western Europe had been checked for the moment, their attention for a time turned elsewhere, and within two more centuries they had conquered Persia (Iran), Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of India. They also later advanced against Christian nations, conquering the Byzantine Empire in 1453 and encroaching as far as Vienna, Austria in 1683.
The Crusades occurred in the middle of this struggle. The immediate preparation for them took place in the eleventh century, with increases in long-standing tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land.
G. K. Chesterton: The Tame Oracle? | John Herreid | IPNovels.com
G.K. Chesterton loved to argue. He argued with his family, he argued with his friends, he argued his enemies into becoming his friends. His infectious delight in argument won over some other prominent literary figures who were determined to dislike the man. They found that he had no qualms being friends with them—so long as they didn’t mind arguing with him.
Chesterton’s essays in the Illustrated London News read as rambling, pugnacious invitations to argument. Nothing was off limits in his column, everything was fodder for jumping from subject to subject, jabbing and poking at the ideas he found incorrect. He exaggerated, tossed off outrageous hyperbole, and overstated his case; in short, he was a provocateur.
I love Chesterton. I’ve been fortunate enough to design a couple of bookcovers for the Ignatius Press editions of his work, and I’ve been collecting original editions of his books when I can. But good old G.K.C. the wild provocateur is in danger these days. Chesterton the tame oracle is taking his place.
Love of Chesterton has led many people to simply read him while disengaging the critical part of their mind. They accept everything he says at face value—so you’ll have people uncritically agree with, for example, Chesterton’s insistence that women be denied suffrage. If G.K. said it, he must be right! He’s our tame oracle.
Does Religion Really Have a "Smart-People Problem"? | Fr. Robert Barron | CWR
Philosophy, so marked today by nihilism and postmodern relativism, is passing through a particularly corrupt period
Daniel Dennett, one of the “four horsemen” of contemporary atheism, proposed in 2003 that those who espouse a naturalist, atheist worldview should call themselves “the brights,” thereby distinguishing themselves rather clearly from the dim benighted masses who hold on to supernaturalist convictions. In the wake of Dennett’s suggestion, many atheists have brought forward what they take to be ample evidence that the smartest people in our society do indeed subscribe to anti-theist views. By “smartest” they usually mean practitioners of the physical sciences, and thus they point to surveys that indicate only small percentages of scientists subscribe to religious belief.
In a recent article published in the online journal “Salon,” titled "Religion's Smart-People Problem," philosophy professor John Messerly reiterates this case. However, he references, not simply the lack of belief among the scientists, but also the atheism among academic philosophers, or as he puts it, “professional philosophers.” He cites a recent survey that shows only 14% of such professors admitting to theistic convictions, and he states that this unbelief among the learned elite, though not in itself a clinching argument for atheism, should at the very least give religious people pause.
Well, I’m sorry, Professor Messerly, but please consider me unpaused.
"The Adoration of the Magi" by Matthias Stom (c.1600-c.1652) [http://commons.wikimedia.org/]
Is Catholicism the "Babylon Mystery Religion"? | Mark P. Shea | CWR
How the story of the Magi sheds plenty of light on the historical soundness of the Gospel of Matthew and how early Christians viewed paganism
As we saw last time in this space, the notion that Christianity is "really" warmed-over paganism is contradicted by the fact—abundantly in evidence not only in the New Testament but in the writings of the Fathers and the liturgy of the Church—that, well, early Christians just don't care much about pagan things, while both the New Testament and the Fathers are positively drowning in the images, words, ideas, thought forms, questions, and concerns of the authors of the Old Testament. Reading the New Testament in the hope of discovering the secret paganism that it is the real root of Christianity is like reading Shakespeare with the undying conviction that sufficient scrutiny will uncover his massive debt to Korean literature: it just ain't gonna happen. The New Testament is obsessed with the Old Testament, not with paganism. It makes reference to paganism only very occasionally, and to pagan literature only a handful of times.
Meanwhile, the New Testament is soaked in Hebraic thought, imagery, poetry, prophecy, law, and wisdom. The early Christians don't care too much about paganism, seeing it as, variously, 1) a dim hunch about things Jews and Christians were privileged to know by revelation from God; 2) a demonic deception; 3) a source of human wisdom, but not divine revelation. For that, they turn with obsessive fascination to what Paul calls "the oracles of God" (Romans 3: Early Christians will turn to it to illustrate a point, as when Paul quoted a Greek poet or two to connect with the Greek locals, just as a stump speaker might mention the local football team in attempting to connect to his audience). In much the same way, even today modern Christians offer punning riffs on current cultural phenomena (“Jesus: He’s the Real Thing,” “Christ: Don’t Leave Earth Without Him,” etc.).
But exactly what these Christians did not do was take passages of Scripture that referred to Jesus and apply them to Apollo or some other pagan deity. Nor did they look to any pagan deity to tell them about Jesus; they knew perfectly well that Jesus could be represented as the Sun of Justice and Light of the World long before Aurelian invented his pagan festival. That’s because early Christians were behaving in a way perfectly consistent with Scripture, becoming “all things to all men” (1 Cor. 9:22), not “holding the form of religion while denying the power of it” (2 Tim. 3:5).
This matters immensely because it bears directly on the first moment the early Catholic Church really did borrow something from pagans. And not just any pagans, mind you, but actual adherents of Babylonian Mystery Religion. And most amazingly, the early Catholics’ decision to do so receives the complete approval of, and even hearty defense by . . . Bible-believing Christians!
We Three Kings of Orient Are /Astrologers Who Traverse Afar
As a young Evangelical, one of the things I routinely heard from critics of Christianity was that “everybody knows” the story of the Magi in Matthew 2 is a pious fiction invented by the Evangelist.
I object to a quarrel because it always interrupts an argument.” —G. K. Chesterton
As I write, a lot of Catholics are worried about the ongoing tussling about pastoral issues in the Church. Others are worried about what seems to be a growing partisan divide in America between those with differing political views.
I’m worried about this as well—mostly because many people have decided that differences of opinion are so great that they must avoid the contamination of being friends with those who disagree with them, only engaging their opponents in angry online quarrels.
So it’s an opportune time to revisit G. K. Chesterton’s rollicking, rousing fantasy, The Ball and the Cross. Now in a new edition by Chesterton Press, The Ball and the Cross is the story of a Jacobite Catholic from Scotland, MacIan, and a brawny atheist named Turnbull. Their argument begins with the memorable words “Stand up and fight, you crapulous coward!”, uttered by MacIan as he smashes through the window of Turnbull’s bookshop, The Atheist. They’re both convinced of the rightness of their causes and want to back up their arguments not merely with words—but with swords.
The trouble is that society at large has ceased to care about these sorts of debates and would rather they both be silenced. Or at least have their swords taken from them. So begins an adventure that ranges across landscapes and through ideas. As MacIan and Turnbull try to escape from police pursuit so that they may engage in a duel to the death with one another, they begin to find another obstacle arising: friendship.
The two begin, gruffly, to acknowledge admiration for one another. But they also both feel strongly enough about their respective causes that they would die defending it. Can there be any compromise? Can there be friendship?
We can only look to Chesterton himself for the answer. ...
Every person carries within his heart a blueprint of the one he loves. What seems to be "love at first sight" is actually the fulfillment of desire, the realization of a dream. Plato, sensing this, said that all knowledge is a recollection from a previous existence. This is not true as he states it, but it is true if one understands it to mean that we already have an ideal in us, one that is made by our thinking, our habits, our experiences, and our desires. Otherwise, how would we know immediately, on seeing persons or things, that we loved them? Before meeting certain people we already have a pattern and mold of what we like and what we do not like; certain persons fit into that pattern, others do not.
When we hear music for the first time, we either like or dislike it. We judge it by the music we already have heard in our own hearts. Jittery minds, which cannot long repose in one object of thought or in continuity of an ideal, love music that is distracting, excited, and jittery. Calm minds like calm music: the heart has its own secret melody, and one day, when the score is played, the heart answers: "This is it." So it is with love. A tiny architect works inside the human heart drawing sketches of the ideal love from the people it sees, from the books it reads, from its hopes and daydreams, in the fond hope that the eye may one day see the ideal and the hand touch it. Life becomes satisfying the moment the dream is seen walking, and the person appears as the incarnation of all that one loved. The liking is instantaneous—because, actually, it was there waiting for a long time. Some go through life without ever meeting what they call their ideal. This could be very disappointing, if the ideal never really existed. But the absolute ideal of every heart does exist, and it is God. All human love is an initiation into the Eternal. Some find the Ideal in substance without passing through the shadow.
God, too, has within Himself blueprints of everything in the universe. As the architect has in his mind a plan of the house before the house is built, so God has in His Mind an archetypal idea of every flower, bird, tree, springtime, and melody. There never was a brush touched to canvas or a chisel to marble without some great pre-existing idea. So, too, every atom and every rose is a realization and concretion of an idea existing in the Mind of God from all eternity. All creatures below man correspond to the pattern God has in His Mind. A tree is truly a tree because it corresponds to God's idea of a tree. A rose is a rose because it is God's idea of a rose wrapped up in chemicals and tints and life. But it is not so with persons. God has to have two pictures of us: one is what we are, and the other is what we ought to be. He has the model, and He has the reality: the blueprint and the edifice, the score of the music and the way we play it. God has to have these two pictures because in each and every one of us there is some disproportion and want of conformity between the original plan and the way we have worked it out. The image is blurred; the print is faded. For one thing, our personality is not complete in time; we need a renewed body. Then, too, our sins diminish our personality; our evil acts daub the canvas the Master Hand designed. Like unhatched eggs, some of us refuse to be warmed by the Divine Love, which is so necessary for incubation to a higher level. We are in constant need of repairs; our free acts do not coincide with the law of our being; we fall short of all God wants us to be. St. Paul tells us that we were predestined, before the foundations of the world were laid, to become the sons of God. But some of us will not fulfill that hope.
"Human/Need/Desire" (1983) by Bruce Nauman (WikiArt.org)
Revisiting the Argument from Desire | Fr. Robert Barron | CWR blog
This argument for the existence of God tends to be dismissed out of hand by skeptics, but deserves a closer look
One of the classical demonstrations of God’s existence is the so-called argument from desire. It can be stated in a very succinct manner as follows. Every innate or natural desire corresponds to some objective state of affairs that fulfills it. Now we all have an innate or natural desire for ultimate fulfillment, ultimate joy, which nothing in this world can possibly satisfy. Therefore there must exist objectively a supernatural condition that grounds perfect fulfillment and happiness, which people generally refer to as “God.”
I have found in my work as an apologist and evangelist that this demonstration, even more than the cosmological arguments, tends to be dismissed out of hand by skeptics. They observe, mockingly, that wishing something doesn’t make it so, and they are eager to specify that remark with examples: I may want to have a billion dollars, but the wish doesn’t make the money appear; I wish I could fly, but my desire doesn’t prove that I have wings, etc.
This rather cavalier rejection of a venerable demonstration is a consequence, I believe, of the pervasive influence of Ludwig Feuerbach and Sigmund Freud, both of whom opined that religion amounts to a pathetic project of wish-fulfillment. Since we want perfect justice and wisdom so badly, and since the world cannot possibly provide those goods, we invent a fantasy world in which they obtain.
Both Feuerbach and Freud accordingly felt that it was high time that the human race shake off these infantile illusions and come to grips with reality as it is. In Feuerbach’s famous phrase: “The no to God is the yes to man.” The same idea is contained implicitly in the aphorism of Feuerbach’s best-known disciple, Karl Marx: “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”
In the wake of this criticism, can the argument from desire still stand?
CWR: Let’s start with the title of your book, Something Other Than God. Where did the title come from and why did you choose it?
Jennifer Fulwiler: The title came from this wonderful C.S. Lewis quote, which is particularly meaningful because C.S. Lewis is also an atheist-to-Christian convert. The full quote says, “All that we call human history…is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” And the reason I chose that is because at first, I thought this story was just a standard conversion story, but as I got into the writing I realized this was more of a story of a search for happiness. So that’s why I chose that quote, because it talks about how we’re all searching for what will really make us happy, and we can only find that in God. CWR: In the book you describe the very intense, almost arduous intellectual process you went through of coming to understand Christianity and what Christians believe. During that time what was your attitude toward “cradle Christians” or those who believed in Christ in a perhaps somewhat unreflective—or at least less intellectually rigorous—way?
Fulwiler: It changed over time. When I was younger, because I had had some bad experiences with Christians, I was very disdainful of “cradle believers” and just thought that they bought into these lies for self-serving reasons. As I got older, though, I began to see it as just a cultural thing. I didn’t think that people’s religion actually meant anything to them; I thought that’s what they did because it was the tradition in their family, or whatever.
Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ, during a 2010 appearance on "The Larry King Show".
Jesuit Philosopher Works to Demonstrate Compatibility of Faith and Science | Jim Graves | CWR
An interview with Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ, president of the Magis Center, about faith, reason, atheism, and Stephen Hawking's "hogwash"
Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ, Ph.D., 62, is president of the Magis Center (www.magiscenter.com), headquartered in the new chancery office of the Diocese of Orange, California. The center’s goal is to demonstrate that faith and reason and science are compatible, and to combat the increasing secularization of society, particularly among young people.
Fr. Spitzer was born and reared in Honolulu, Hawaii. His father was an attorney and businessman; he was one of five children. His father was Lutheran; his mother a Catholic and daily communicant. He attended college at Jesuit-run Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, initially pursuing a career in public accounting and finance.
He went on a retreat led by Fr. Gerard Steckler, a former chaplain for Thomas Aquinas College, and “he got me very interested in theology and the Church.” He began attending daily Mass and taking classes in theology and Scripture. He bought a copy of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica from a used book store and began reading it. “I saw the solidity of faith in the light of reason,” he said, “and once that happened, I was ready to go.”
He joined the Society of Jesus in 1974, and was ordained a priest in 1983.
Fr. Spitzer is the author of several books, including Healing the Culture(Ignatius Press, 2000), Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life(Ignatius Press, 2008), New Proofs for the Existence of God(Eerdmans, 2010), and Ten Universal Principles (Ignatius Press, 2010), as well as numerous articles for scholarly journals, and has delivered hundreds of lectures. He is a teacher, and served as president of Gonzaga University from 1998 to 2009. He continues to produce an enormous volume of work despite suffering from poor eyesight throughout his adult life (he has not, for example, been able to drive a car for 30 years), which has gotten worse in recent years.
Fr. Spitzer recently spoke with CWR.
CWR: Prominent atheists often frame the debate between themselves and religious people by saying you either believe in “science”—however they may define it—or what they call the fairy tales of the Bible. What response would you offer such a viewpoint?
Fr. Spitzer: To start, I wouldn’t let them get away with saying faith and science contradict one another. We’re privileged to live in a time when there is more evidence from physics for a beginning of the universe than ever before. I made this point to [atheist scientist] Stephen Hawking in 2010, when I appeared along with him on Larry King Live. Stephen knows this. (Watch the discussion online.)
The debate centered on what was before the beginning of the universe. If you say “nothing”, then there has to be a God. You can’t move from nothing to something. Even Larry King got that. He asked another physicist on the program, Leonard Mlodinow, “How about that Leonard, how can you make something from nothing?” All Leonard could do was to equivocate on the term “nothing.”
CWR: Speaking of Stephen Hawking, he made the news recently when he officially declared himself to be an atheist. Do you find atheism widespread among the scientific community, or do a handful of atheist scientists receive a lot of publicity?
Fr. Spitzer: About 45% of working scientists are declared theists. Another vocal group, let’s say 20%, describe themselves as atheists. A third group is the agnostic naturalists. They’re not sure whether or not God exists, but they don’t what to compromise the naturalistic method by believing in God. I wouldn’t describe them as atheists.
CWR: Scientists often marvel at the intricacies of what Christians call Creation, but seem to suggest that these things developed on their own without a Designer outside the system to create them. Do many scientists have blinders on when it comes to God?
BRANDON: You followed a unique route to God, one that was philosophical but just as much literary. How did your background as an English professor fuel your conversion, and how did the imagination play a significant role?
DR. HOLLY ORDWAY: I wasn’t interested in hearing arguments about God, or reading the Bible, but God’s grace was working through my imagination… like a draft flowing under a closed and locked door.
To begin with, classic Christian literature planted seeds in my imagination as a young girl, something I write about in more detail in my book. Later, Christian authors provided dissenting voices to the naturalistic narrative that I’d accepted—the only possible dissenting voice, since I wasn’t interested in reading anything that directly dealt with the subject of faith or Christianity, and thus wasn’t exposed to serious Christian thought.
I found that my favorite authors were men and women of deep Christian faith. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien above all; and then the poets: Gerard Manley Hopkins, George Herbert, John Donne, and others. Their work was unsettling to my atheist convictions, in part because I couldn’t sort their poetry into neat ‘religious’ and ‘non-religious’ categories; their faith infused all their work, and the poems that most moved me, from Hopkins’ “The Windhover” to Donne’s Holy Sonnets, were explicitly Christian. I tried to view their faith as a something I could separate from the aesthetic power of their writing, but that kind of compartmentalization didn’t work well, especially not with a work of literature as rich and complex as The Lord of the Rings.
Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I needed to ask more questions. I needed to find out what a man like Donne meant when he talked about faith in God, because whatever he meant, it didn’t seem to be ‘blind faith, contrary to reason’.
The Christian writers did more than pique my interest as to the meaning of ‘faith’. Over the years, reading works like the Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and Hopkins’ poetry had given me a glimpse of a different way of seeing the world. It was a vision of the world that was richly meaningful and beautiful, and that also made sense of both the joy and sorrow, the light and dark that I could see and experience. My atheist view of the world was, in comparison, narrow and flat; it could not explain why I was moved by beauty and cared about truth. The Christian claim might not be true, I thought to myself, but it was had depth to it that was worth investigating.