Questions and Answers on Christian Theism
Questions and Answers on Theism by A.L.
Q. What makes you think that there is such a thing as God?
A. I think many people can write volumes on that question. For me, the answer lies in looking at reality. First, there is existence itself. There are things which exist and continue to exist although they do not have to. Why? Why are there contingent beings? To give an answer which points to a contingent being begs the question even if there are an infinite amount of contingent beings. It seems that the best explanation why there are contingent beings is that there is a being which is self-sufficient, that cannot not exist. And this is what we call God.
The second reason why I believe that God exists is the very nature of faith itself. Why would we have faith at all? Rocks, plants, and animals do not have faith, but we do. Why should we believe in things that are unseen even if they are not provable? Now, I do not want to get into the discussion of whether animals have beliefs or not, but I think the ordinary person sees my point. Since the very beginning of human existence, people had a belief in a greater being than themselves. There are things in this world that simply cannot be discovered by science, whether it be physical science or metaphysics, but must be discovered in a certain way which is not contradictory to reason but harmonious with it. Since the very beginning, we have looked at this world and saw our weaknesses. Why are things simply beautiful? We didn't put them there, but we see it. We don't even fully understand it. In a mysterious way, this points to God. And when one has faith in God, then everything makes sense. Everything becomes even more beautiful.
The third reason is the fact that there is goodness in the world. Even if there have been many evils and natural disasters that we have witnessed, it seems that in some way, there are some things that are still good and valuable. The human heart, for example, always has a capacity to give itself to someone else. We all have a potential to be good, not just for the sake of the lives we live, but for humanity as a whole. Not just for the sake of this world, but because there is a good, a greater good, which must be fought for, must be kept, cherished, given, and longed for. Even in a tragic event, we always have a 'movie' or 'drama' mentality that everything will be fine in the end, that the just will get their justice and the evil ones will get what they deserve. One may say that this is just from movies and novels, but we must remember that movies and novels came from people. I think that these kinds of movies and novels were made because the human heart of a person has some sort of 'stamp' that this is really how it will be and how it is supposed to be. In other words, we all have a glimpse of the Paschal Mystery.
Finally, there is the human desire for everlasting happiness which cannot be satisfied in this world. If we cannot be satisfied in this world, it seems that we are made for another. These are some reasons, although they may not be the best ones, why I believe in God.
Q. What are the best objections to the theistic worldview and how do you respond to them?
A. The traditional argument against God is the problem of evil. I think, however, that this has already been defeated and we do not need to speak of its intellectual problems. The reason why evil or suffering is such a good argument is not that it is a good intellectual argument, but personal. If I have a child who has cancer and he is suffering, where is God in all this? Where is He? Why doesn't He help? The answer to this is a question: who would help? To whom shall we go? When one believes in Christ's life, death, and resurrection, we may not feel better, but we know that in the end, everything will be okay. Since it is a personal problem, it cannot really be solved intellectually, but rather a personal encounter of Jesus Christ Himself, to respond to it with Him and in Him. To be with Him and in Him is to be with and in love for in Christ, we see that God is truly love itself and love is the answer to everything isn't it?
Today, the most influential argument against God is metaphysical naturalism. This is the view that there is no supernatural because we do not need the supernatural to solve the problems we have. We have become arrogant, thinking that we can solve any problem with a medicine or a machine. But the fact is, there is more to it than the natural or the material. Take the human person. Naturalists believe that there is only the natural or things which emerge from the natural. The human person has no soul. The problem with this is that the more we see the human person as simply a body, the more we will treat him as an object. Apart from the arguments for the immaterial mind such as intentionality, universals, and truth, if we simply look at experience, we know that there is more to the person than the body. For example, if I take advantage of a girl and had sex with her everyday telling her I loved her and then leave her when she doesn't satisfy me anymore, the girl would not become 'physically' devastated. She will have emotional or even psychological problems. Why? Because a human person has an interior life, something more than the body. It is not just because the person has a brain which produces some kind of emotion, but life 'within' the body. S/he is more than the body. I believe it is because a person consists of both body and soul (Matt 10:28; 1 Thess 5:23).
Q. You said that you believe in God. Which God? Many people believe in different types of God. Can we actually know which the right one is?
A. I believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Mary of Nazareth. I believe that Jesus Christ has revealed God to us and God vindicated His teachings through His resurrection.
Q. Is the Muslim religion wrong then? They don't believe in the resurrection of Jesus.
A. That's a type of question which I need to answer with more than a yes or no. The answer is that they are wrong in rejecting the death and resurrection of Jesus. This does not mean, however, that they do not possess some kind of truth in their religion. They do believe in the God of Abraham. And who can say that the God of Abraham is wrong? However, they are imperfect in worshipping God simply because God fully revealed Himself through Jesus Christ. Just as I can say that Catholics and Protestants adore the same Christ, so too can I say that Catholics and Muslims adore the same God. This does not mean that we adore in the same degree. Catholics adore Christ fully because we have the Mass while Protestants don't. Catholics adore God fully because we believe in God's only Son, Jesus Christ, while Muslims don't.
Q. Isn't that a little dogmatic?
A. I do believe that some may be disturbed with what I said. But I believe that any Protestant who believes should not become Catholic unless, for example, that they understand what we mean by the sacraments and Church authority. I respect a Protestant for his rejection even though I believe it is wrong. But I can still ask him to pray for me so that I become closer to Christ. Becoming closer to Christ is what a Christian must do anyway. With regards to the Muslims, they believe that their religion is right. I wouldn't want them to change their doctrines simply because I don't like it. If they truly believe in their faith, then I want them to defend it and explain it. That's the only way we can truly have an understanding with each other. At the same time, dialogue should not simply be an intellectual exercise, but something which consists of mutual trust and friendship. I trust that they will explain their true beliefs to me while I will explain mine.
Q. What about the Jews? Is Judaism wrong?
A. That is a very difficult question. This is because Jesus did not come to this world as if an alien just came from Mars. God has had a relationship with the world since the very beginning. He chose a certain group of people to be called His people. They are the Jews. Now, it is well known that Jesus was a Jew and He worked His mission within the framework of Judaism. He believed that He was fulfilling what God has promised in the Scriptures and His covenants. This time, however, the covenant was not limited to a particular group of people, but to the whole world. It was a universal mission. God sent Jesus to save the world from sin. The new covenant is an 'extension' of the old covenant in the sense that Jesus fulfilled the old covenant and made a new one. You cannot have the new without the old. Also, Jesus also redefined, because of His universal mission, the people of God. Again, the people of God is not limited to a particular group or country but to the whole world. He also redefined it in the sense that He made it better. Because of His life, death, and resurrection, there is now a communion between God and man in a way never before, even before Adam committed sin. The communion between God and man is such that man has the capacity to see God as He is and to partake in His divine nature. This is all in the context of Judaism.
Q. But Jews today reject Christ don't they? Are they wrong?
A. Well, again, Jesus worked within Judaism. Judaism has many different sects, especially in the first century. In the first century, you had the Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and a movement which followed the interpretations of Jesus called Christianity or as the liberals calls it, 'the Jesus-movement.' It wasn't until the destruction of the temple that Christians separated themselves from those who reject Christ. So in a sense, Christianity, and I don't want to offend any Jews here, has a Jewish characteristic. With regards to the question of the Jews today, they still look for the coming of the messiah as we are.
Q. You believe the messiah is Jesus. Do Jews have to acknowledge Christ in order to be saved?
A. Yes, that is what we believe. Again, this should not mean that I am condemning Jews who reject Christ. The action itself, I believe, is wrong, but it does not mean that they will not acknowledge Him some day. If that will happen in the End Times, then so be it. But we Catholics do believe that Jesus Christ is the only savior and there is no name which one can be saved except the name of Jesus (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Q. Let's turn to the Catholic-Protestant dialogue. What do you believe is the main issue still keeping them apart?
A. I personally believe it is the issue of authority. Protestants do not believe in the universal jurisdiction of the papacy. They believe in sola scriptura, meaning the scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith. Of course, there is the issue of justification. Protestants still believe in imputed righteousness and sola fide. I don't think the issue of sola fide is an issue. Protestants believe that in order one must have a saving faith one must have the production of good works. As long as they believe good works is an essential property of faith, then I would agree with the phrase 'faith alone' (James 2:24). The Fathers and even Aquinas used that phrase before, but they always used it differently. Faith meant a sacramental life rooted in baptism and the other sacraments such as confession and Eucharist. In other words, a Catholic Faith.
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