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Chelsea Andrades wrote:

Hi, guys —

This is for a documentary in college where my chosen topic is religion so if there is any priest that could help me answer some questions would be great.

  1. What are your opinions on religion and it's existence?
  1. a. If there is and always has been one God, then where did all of these other religions come from with their alternate holy books and traditions?
    b. And, if there is only one God, how do you know you have the right one?
    c. Why is your source on God (the Bible) superior to their sources?
  1. Why was Jesus' Death on the Cross the only way sins could be forgiven?
  1. If Christians are forgiven and they know they will be forgiven no matter what they do, why should they refrain from doing evil?

    Atheists don't have that expectation for forgiveness, and they don't go around killing and stealing. They know they have to live with the consequences of their actions, in the real world; and that it's the only world they're going to get.
  1. Why would you trust God's plan given his track record of many failures?
  1. a. Why do innocent children have to suffer from terminal diseases such as cancer?
    b. What part of God's plan is this?
  1. If God chooses to allow the devil to continue to exist, knowing He is going to tempt us into sin, isn't God making the devil His agent?
  1. In Christian theology, the devil is generally thought of as both being evil in himself and as being the punisher of bad people. That makes Him a good person, in some sense as God doesn't punish and He's the forgiving one.
  1. a. Why do parents force their religion on their children?
    b. Why doesn't the Church normalize being agnostic or atheist as not everyone will feel the presence of God in their life, no matter how hard they try?

    Universally, people warn us that we shouldn't believe in things we don't see, as God's presence is abstract.

  1. Why should we believe in God when He has never come down or has been physically resurrected even once in the light of Easter?

Chelsea

  { Can someone help me with some questions for a college documentary on religion? }

Bob replied:

Dear Chelsea,

Your questions could have very lengthy answers, so I will try to be concise, but you can always search our database for more information as well.

  1. What are your opinions on religion and it's existence?

1. Religion is essential to mankind's relationship with, and understanding of, the True God. Irrespective of culture, time and place, man has always sought to answer the question of why?Why am I here? What is my purpose? While many religions use philosophy and guesswork to answer the fundamental questions, only a few, namely, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, purport to have heard God speak.

Any sincere quest for religious truth must examine the claims of these fundamental religions to find out which is most credible. It is our opinion that the Catholic faith, which is rooted in the initial revelation of Judaism, is the true faith, with the fullness of revelation coming through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Islam, while it claims to have authentic truth, is merely an aberration of the former and not credible (a whole subject in and of itself, so I must leave it at that). Jesus Christ is the only credible witness to have come from God and revealed the truth about God. Islam contradicts Christianity, and Judaism was incomplete.

  1. a. If there is and always has been one God, then where did all of these other religions come from with their alternate holy books and traditions?
    b. And, if there is only one God, how do you know you have the right one?
    c. Why is your source on God (the Bible) superior to their sources?

2. Other religions arose from mankind's innate sense that there is something transcendent, and that life here doesn't tell the whole story. One anthropological truth is that excavations sites of early man indicate ritual burials, which point to a belief in an afterlife. This trait distinguishes man from other beasts, where no such evidence is found.

You could therefore say a defining characteristic of man is his ascent to the supernatural. It is therefore natural to see religion arise to meet this fundamental existential.

  1. Why was Jesus' Death on the Cross the only way sins could be forgiven?

3. The Cross, as a means of salvation, is exclusive in as much as only God, who is infinite, can provide a sacrifice of infinite worth. Every sin is an offense against an infinite God.

  • How can man make a sacrifice commensurate to the one who is infinitely offended?
    <He can't.>

Jesus Christ however is God; God the Second Person of the Infinite Triune God head and therefore, when He lays down His Life in a wiling offering of Self, it has Infinite Merit. Since He did this on behalf of mankind, this act has infinite redeeming value. Inasmuch as He chose to apply this merit to people is his prerogative, and hence, Jesus Christ clearly taught us how God wants us to live and become the people He chose to live with Him forever, as they receive This Bountiful Act of Forgiveness and Mercy.

  1. If Christians are forgiven and they know they will be forgiven no matter what they do, why should they refrain from doing evil?

    Atheists don't have that expectation for forgiveness, and they don't go around killing and stealing. They know they have to live with the consequences of their actions in the real world; and that it's the only world they're going to get.

4. Christians are not forgiven no matter what they do.

While forgiveness is a free gift of God, there are conditions—not least of which is repentance. There is an error in your supposition. Some sins are deadly and can kill the soul. While fundamentalist Christians may believe what you say to be true (once saved, always saved), neither Catholics, nor those that held the authentic Christian Faith, ever believed that. There is no license to keep sinning in grievous ways.

Catholics make a distinction between, what we call venial and mortal sins. Venial sins are not grave in nature, but are still wrong. If you come home in a bad mood and give your family an awful time just because you are hormonal, that is a venial sin. If you go cheat on your spouse, that is a mortal sin. The objective criteria for a mortal sin is having a.) full knowledge, b.) a full consent of the will, c.) on a serious matter. If all those criteria are there, the sin is likely to be a mortal sin. You can find the Biblical basis for this in 1 John 5:14-17. It's better to say that all sin is capable of being forgiven because of Christ's Mercy given to us. To access this we must practice the obedience of faith that Christ demands, and if we fall, we must reconcile ourselves to God and seek forgiveness again.

For Catholics, mortal sins are best dealt with through the Sacrament of Confession, but in emergency (fear of imminent death) one must make an act of perfect contrition, holding true sorrow for sin because it offends and breaks the Heart of God.

The bottom line is that God loves us and has literally bent over backwards to insure we have the opportunity for Eternal Life with Him, but we really need to surrender our lives to Him and let Him be Lord, Judge and Savior in every way. Playing games with sin and unrepentant vice is a surefire disaster for the soul.

  1. Why would you trust God's plan given his track record of many failures?

5. God has no failures. Man does. We trust in God, not man. The Cross looks like a failure to the world, but that is the very Victory of Christ.

That act of laying His life down brought salvation to all those who trust in Him.

  1. a. Why do innocent children have to suffer from terminal diseases such as cancer?
    b. What part of God's plan is this?

6. This is the problem of evil that no one fully understands.

  • How can a loving God let horrible things happen to good people?

We will finally get the answer to that in a fully satisfactory way when we get to Heaven. But in the meantime, we look at the life of Jesus and see a God who was willing to get down in the middle of our mess, not sparing Himself any suffering, to let us know that He is not indifferent to our suffering. He is happy to bear it for us, and bring us to a place where every tear will be wiped away. Every bit of suffering in this world has some meaning that we can't always see. Just think of all the great heroes that were forged under such horrible circumstances. Think of how much love people have given when they see others suffering. We may never fully understand it, but somehow these terrible things work for good in the end.

  1. If God chooses to allow the devil to continue to exist, knowing He is going to tempt us into sin, isn't God making the devil His agent?

7. God has a Direct (Perfect) Will, and a permissive will.

His Direct Will is only for love and goodness, his permissive will allows evil to do what He does not want perfectly—because it is the necessary condition of free will, (and God knows, in the end, that love is greater than sin.) You cannot receive love from robots or automatons. Only free souls can love, and if you have freedom you must have the ability to choose what is against the other.

God made us in love and freedom so we would be able to love Him in return. That is an incredible reality that is hard to digest. God permits these things because of freedom and the demands of justice. Consider that God loves even satan, the devil, He loves him because he was made good and beautiful and had so much potential for awesome things but satan chose against God. Despite this sad reality, God did not decide to snuff him out of existence just because he wasn't on the same page. He respects his freedom and the beauty of his existence (his being is something beautiful even though he has marred it) — God just won't live with him (satan).

  • Don't we have people in our lives like that?

We love them but we can't live with them. Evil exists because souls will it, bring the effects into reality and make others feel its unhappy results. You could say that the devil is the agent of God inasmuch as everything is. God ultimately is above all things and eventually all things will conform to His Will — either to abide with Him — or away from Him but He will have justice as He is totally just and loving.

  1. In Christian theology, the devil is generally thought of as both being evil in himself and as being the punisher of bad people. That makes Him a good person, in some sense as God doesn't punish and He's the forgiving one.

8. This idea of the devil as the punisher of bad people is not a Christian concept pertaining to our lives on Earth, but there is a way you could relate it to the torments of Hell.

In Hell, the souls of the damned inflict punishment on each other: misery loves company, and there is no compassion in Hell. (Imagine the most evil spiteful person you know never getting any better and losing all goodness, ouch) God does not punish anyone. They punish themselves and the company they keep. By being away from the source of all goodness and beauty and love, they are reduced to the most miserable lot in existence. No one should want to go to Hell, because they have no idea how miserable it is. Dante wrote about the levels of Hell, but we could again harken back to the idea of justice. God can permit a soul who has done grievous harm to himself and others to be pushed very far away in the very depth of Hell. The further away, the greater the torment. In some sense, everything is proportional.

  1. a. Why do parents force their religion on their children?
    b. Why doesn't the Church normalize being agnostic or atheist as not everyone will feel the presence of God in their life, no matter how hard they try?

9. Why do parents make their children go to school, make their beds, and so on and on and on? Parents have the responsibility for the upbringing of their children in the best way they know possible. Knowing that life is meant for eternal life with God, compels parents to teach their children all they know. Atheism is fundamentally opposed to religion and therefore the Church should not normalize it.

The whole point of Jesus Christ's mission is to call us to faith, trust, and relationship with God. To do otherwise would contradict the Very One we say we follow. Christ gave us a huge decision to make, he said, 5 I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me, (cf. John 14:5-6) Our obligation, as is the obligation of every Christian, parent or otherwise, is to proclaim the Good News that Jesus Christ has opened the doors of Heaven for us. Now we must follow Him and live a new life in grace, which is how He promised us we could truly become God's family as adopted children.

    Universally, people warn us that we shouldn't believe in things we don't see, as God's presence is abstract.

  1. Why should we believe in God when He has never come down or has been physically resurrected even once in the light of Easter?

10. God did come down. Either Jesus Christ was a liar, lunatic or he was telling the truth. (Liar, Lunatic, or Lord) There aren't any other options. He is an historical Person; no one can deny that. His whole rise to fame is built upon the very assertion of His Resurrection, which the authorities at his time knew was irrefutable. His Apostles were almost all put to horrible deaths like He was, and never recanted the claims of Jesus, as well as the five hundred who were also witnesses to Jesus after the Resurrection. The Church was built on the blood of martyrs (which means witness), who gladly laid their lives down in imitation of the Christ so others would know the truth to which He called us. That has been true of saints in every age.

As far as modern signs goes, consider Fatima. The claims that three shepherd children were visited by the Virgin Mary, brought tens of thousands of people to the place in Portugal where she visited to bring her message. Estimates are that at least. 50,000, some over 100,000 people, were present and witnessed the incredible miracle that was promised. Atheists, communists, skeptics, believers, all were present. It is an undeniable fact of the 20th century that the miracle happened and was witnessed by thousands.

Just because God breaks into our dull little space doesn't mean all people will change and believe. There is always a choice. Some people prefer darkness to light. Read the gospel of John. It starts this way.

All of the important claims of Jesus are in this Gospel so I think a good summary answer to your questions can be found, in Jesus own words, in this Gospel.

 

Peace and God bless you,

Bob Kirby

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