Hypocrisy and Belief


We all have friends who profess a major obstacle to belief in God and Christianity because of the sinful behavior of the people that do believe. Who wants to associate with hypocrites and liars? How could God? This is truly a scandal, a road-block, for onlookers and outsiders. The quick rejoinder is, thank the Lord they are in the Church (or one of its traditions) or we’d have to suffer their true wrath divorced from any transcendent restriction and duty. This is of course a wisecrack, but perhaps more wise than it appears.

The first thing to be said is that belief in God and belief in Christian Revelation are two quite distinct things. God, the omnipotent, omniscient, un-moved mover and bedrock of all reality has been found a necessary inference by some of the brightest minds on record. This is first of all a philosophical question, which is to be considered by reason divorced from the specifics of the faith of Christianity, just as we would infer a quark based upon the observational data we collect in physics. To explain existence as we know it a first (highest) principle is required.

God is not thought to be a physical being, or a substance like water or fire or rock, a combination of chemicals, or even an old man in the sky. That idea is absurd, and every atheist who professes to not believe that the spaghetti monster exists is quite right in his suggestion. If that is absurd, then this is a question of a reality that we cannot see. To accept this should not be as difficult as it has become in our physical-science drenched perspective. We try to solve every quandary by measuring it and cutting it up, and if that doesn’t work, we deny it because we already think the real is always physical.

This is a seriously questionable position, which philosophy throughout recorded time has treated as such. Problems concerning universals, the mind or soul, propositions, mathematics, and morals cannot be resolved nicely into a material principle without damaging our raw data: we cannot explain them along physical lines without explaining them away. One must deal with Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas and Descartes, and many, many, many others in the great tradition before floating away blissfully on the materialist’s river. For they suggest that river ends in quite a spectacular fall. Otherwise, one is prematurely closing themselves to protect their desired preconception. How could absolutely brilliant and sober minds believe the invisible world is quite real and that it’s ultimately incoherent to disavow it? Simply because they couldn’t fly to the moon or study cellular biology? We should shudder at avoiding this profound question.

Philosophy in its essence is not some specialized, arid, desert where only oddball hermits should wander; in short, it is not its current academic face. Philosophy is simply the orderly attempt to make explicit and coherent what we know about allof reality, and it uses as its primary data our common and full experience. We would not be good scientists if in the study of all we pre-screened part of the allout of our purview. In philosophy we come to a determination about man and the universe. The praeambula fidei are the foundational propositions about reality that reason can attain, if considered carefully and patiently (to be clear, no one has said that understanding these is easy, or even attainable for everyone; consider, is understanding quantum physics attainable for everyone??). It is in the least true that, via reason alone, it is not absurd, illogical, patently false, or unreasonable to affirm the existence of that which we cannot see or sense and ultimately of God.

It is from this platform that one must begin to consider the possibility of revelation and the God of the Bible. Divorced from clear thinking about reality, how could we possibly undertake an examination of the essence of Christianity? If we do not have the truth about man from a natural perspective, how could we possibly grasp what it means to the “new man”; if we don’t have a good understanding about creation, how could we possibly come to understand the “new creation”; if we do not even understand the meaning of the word God, how possibly can we come to grasp (ever so slightly) the Trinity? Would it shock anyone to learn that faith per se, far from revolving around the existence of God, properly pertains to the promises of Christ about himself, the Father, the Holy Spirit and the eternal life we might attain a share of? We don’t have faith that God exists, but that God is three persons in one divine nature. And certainly, even with the clearest rational eyes, we cannot fully comprehend the transcendence of the revealed truth. While robust reason is necessary, it’s not capable of exhausting the mysteries of the faith because they are in their essence beyond our capacity to understand. A mystery is not wholly incomprehensible: we can know God is a Trinity, but we cannot know how this works or how this is. Our term “Trinity” is a flimsy sign to a deeper reality that we cannot articulate but is used by necessity for the sake of communication.

Belief in the Christian Revelation means one believes that God has reached out to man. In fact, it’s the more incredible Creator “coming down” to the level of man to rectify his seemingly impossible separation from Him. As Peter Kreeft says, it’s a divine rescue mission. It’s completely and utterly gratuitous, and done simply because of God’s love for mankind. To believe this, one must have some very good evidence; and in this case, it is primarily historical evidence that one must examine. To “believe” anything is to mean that you accept the testimony and the message of someone else’s knowledge; I believed my astronomy professor’s testimony about whatever physical principle he told us in class that day; and he believed his professors’ on and on until the discoverer of it “saw” it. One must judge the evidence to determine if Jesus was a credible witness, and if so accept his revelation about the divine.

Now on to the issue about hypocrisy. Man is a sinner. The Church is man’s seafarer to redemption, but there are rough waters until the very end. People in the Church are not sinless, and that is not apart of the content of revelation. They are obligated to seek perfection, and that means through grace to attain virtuous behavior like being just, prudent, humble, patient, etc. and to have faith, hope and charity. They will not, however, be without sin no matter how well they respond. The Catholic Church, acting in the person of Christ, offers the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), precisely because man is going to be with sin even after he is in the Church. Being a Christian is an act of the will, to accept the grace that God has offered and to offer one’s self back in light of the incredible gifts one has received (starting with life itself). It is not a magical ticket to immediate reform of one’s behavior.

In the end, the scandal of believers’ sin should not be a real obstacle to faith, because if one is honest in examining the situation, one will see even more the need for relief from it. We have heard many telling us that sin is illusory, or that it can be cured by better education, or a more loving and prosperous home life etc. Ultimately, sin resides at the heart of man, the very center; the divide is so deep that it reaches the depth of his being; and there is no relief except through Christianity. Nothing proves original sin more clearly than the horrible behavior of people, within or without the body of Christ. Chesterton memorably stated that original sin is the only tenant of the Faith that can be proved by simply looking at the newspapers.

Further, if one only sees the hypocrisy of believers, then one is not looking at the full picture. There are saints among us and people selflessly forgoing comfort and even the “American dream” to spend their time in effort to help those least among us. Love, honesty, virtue, faith, compassion, sacrifice, suffering etc. These all exist here and now in believers. If one mistakes tenets of traditional Christian moral teaching as being “hate speech”, then they are regrettably confused about its true nature and true meaning. Christ absolutely never wanted us to hate another person; but he absolutely did want us to hate sin and evil behavior. If one denies the existence of sin and evil, then they are going to have quite a hard time understanding the Christian revelation. If, on the other hand, one doesn’t believe in the full veracity of that revelation (e.g. in some of its moral teachings), then they have a different issue altogether.

I will quote someone much more learned than I in nature of the human heart at length:

All your dissatisfaction with the church seems to me to come from an incomplete understanding of sin. This will perhaps surprise you because you are very conscious of the sins of Catholics; however what you seem actually to demand is that the Church put the kingdom of heaven on earth right here now, that the Holy Ghost be translated at once into all flesh. The Holy Spirit very rarely shows Himself on the surface of anything. You are asking that man return at once to the state God created him in, you are leaving out the terrible radical human pride that causes death. Christ was crucified on earth and the Church crucified in time, and the Church is crucified by all of us, by her members most particularly because she is a Church of sinners. Christ never said that the Church would be operated in a sinless or intelligent way, but that it would not teach error. This does not mean that each and every priest won’t teach error but that the whole Church speaking through the pope will not teach error in matters of faith. The Church is founded on Peter who denied Christ three times and couldn’t walk on the water. All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful. Priests resist it as well as others. To have the Church be what you want it to be would require the continuous miraculous meddling of God in human affairs, whereas it is our dignity that we are allowed more or less to get on with those graces that come through faith and the sacraments and which work through our human nature. God has chosen to operate in this manner. We can’t understand this but we can’t reject it without rejecting life.

Human nature is so faulty that it can resist any amount of grace and most of the time it does. The Church does well to hold her own; you are asking that she show a profit. When shows a profit you have a saint, not necessarily a canonized one. I agree with you that you shouldn’t have to go back centuries to find Catholic thought, and to be sure, you don’t. But you are not going to find the highest principles of Catholicism exemplified on the surface of life nor the highest Protestant principles either. It is easy for any child to pick out the faults in the sermon on his way home from Church every Sunday. It is impossible for him to find out the hidden love that makes a man, in spite of his intellectual limitations, his neuroticism, his own lack of strength, give up his life to the service of God’s people, however bumblingly he may go about it…

It is what is invisible that God sees and that the Christian must look for. Because he knows the consequences of sin, he knows how deep in you have to go to find love. We have our own responsibility for not being “little ones” too long, for not being scandalized. By being scandalized too long, you will scandalize others and the guilt for that will belong to you.

It’s our business to try to change the external faults of the Church — the vulgarity, the lack of scholarship, the lack of intellectual honesty — wherever we find them and however we can… You don’t serve God by saying the Church is ineffective, I’ll have none of it. Your pain at its lack of effectiveness is a sign of your nearness to God. We help overcome this lack of effectiveness simply by suffering on account of it.

To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness. Charity is hard and endures I don’t want to discourage you from reading St. Thomas but don’t read him with the notion that he is going to clear anything up for you. That is done by study but more by prayer. (Flannery O’Connor, December 8, 1958)


Rethinking Acts 17 and Apologetics

Let me go ahead and beat any commenters to the punch: This post is full of hypocrisy. Hence the ‘rethinking’ part of the title. I’m rethinking how I approach issues and deal with them. So, let me get to the hypocritical part of what I want to say.

Much of modern Christian apologetics is full of pointing out how every other belief in the world is wrong. Much time and effort is spent pointing out how Islam is actually violent by nature, arguing with Muslims over how to interpret their own holy writings. We point out how illogical Eastern thinking is. We do everything can to show why other beliefs are wrong and why our beliefs are right. From a Western mindset, this is simply the logical way of handling things, but I’m not sure it fits with what we see in Scripture.

The favorite go-to verse in Scripture dealing with Apologetics is Acts 17 where Paul confronts the intellects of Athens. It’s the famous passage dealing with the statue to the “Unknown god.” Paul points out who the unknown God is to them, stating that He is Christ and the Creator of everything. By stating exactly who God is, he is automatically implying that the pagan philosophies he’s dealing with (stoicism and epicureanism) are wrong in some regard, but he doesn’t come right out and say that. Instead, he points out where they’re right, but then moves on to complete their beliefs by removing the incompleteness from them.

And that’s where I think we’ve gone wrong. We’re so quick to point out where other religions are wrong that we’re missing the point; they’re not wrong, they’re just incomplete, and in being incomplete they’ve tacked on these certain beliefs in the hopes of completing their religions. A heresy is wrong – being a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon is wrong because it denies an essential aspect of Christ’s nature. But it’s wrong because it’s incomplete and a falsehood has been used to make up for the incompleteness of the religion.

Think of how Paul would address Taoism. In modern apologetics one would simply show how Taoism is illogical and point out the problems with it. But I’m not sure this is the best approach. Take part of the Tao teh Ching, where we read:

There exists a Being undifferentiated and complete, born before heaven and earth. Tranquil, boundless, abiding alone and changing not, encircling everything without exhaustion. Fathomless, it seems to be the Source of all things. I do not know its name, but characterize it as the Tao. Arbitrarily forcing a name upon it, I call it Great.

Now, “tao” in Chinese mens “way” or “path.” In other words, the way is fathomless, the source of all things, is Great, and is eternal. Who does that sound like (hint: John 14:6)? Perhaps the best approach here isn’t to say, “Wrong, Jesus is the way, not the tao!” we should instead say, “Yes, you’re right, let me explain more of this Tao.”

I’m certainly not advocating pluralism or universalism. I’m not saying these other religions are true, merely that they contain truth. One is not “saved” by holding onto aspects of the truth, just as one is not in a relationship with a person by only knowing a few things about the person and never having contact with the person. But knowing a few things about that person sure helps in getting to know him.

Perhaps we should do what Paul did, which is find what we have in common first. Let us find the truth in each religion first and then point this truth out to the adherent. In coming into contact with the truth, they will begin to see how the falsehoods surrounding the truth do not coincide with the truth, they’ll begin to see the contradictions; just as oil cannot mix with water, lies cannot mix with what is true. By allowing the truth to come to the surface, the lies will inevitably be pointed out, opening the door to point them to the Truth.

After all, how effective have Christians been at protesting Islam or holding debates against Rabbis? How much is really gained when people are put on the defensive? It would seem that instead of pointing out what’s wrong, we should first point out what’s right and then go from there. After all, if it’s the Truth we’re after, why not begin with truth?

Heartless Apologetics or How NOT to Defend the Faith

The popular Catholic theologian Scott Hahn has correctly noted that some people, “practice apologetics as a full-contact sport or as take-no-prisoners warfare.  For such apologists, the goal is to win the argument, even if that means utterly humiliating their ‘enemies.”  For many Christians, apologetics has become a form of mental jousting in which the primary goal is to deliver crushing blows to the pathetic beliefs of their enemies.  This unfortunate approach is what I like to call heartless apologetics and its practitioners have bought into several lies which I feel compelled to point out:

  1. Heartless apologists mistakenly believe they can win people to Christ through intellectually “backhanding” non-believers.

The goal of apologetics is not to flaunt your intellectual superiority or to demean others who hold false beliefs.  If you think or act as if you are superior to other human beings simply because you have a quick wit and know several slick arguments for the existence of God, then you are a fool.  If you think you are successfully engaging a persons heart after intellectually slapping them in the face, then you are an incredibly ineffective fool.

Effective apologetics begins with love; a genuine love, in your heart, for other people.  It is founded upon a deep and sincere hurt for those who are in bondage to sin and have been captivated and led astray by false worldly wisdom.  It flows out of a loving desire to help those who are drowning in a sea of doubt.  The effective apologist will always treat his “opponent” with respect and dignity and genuinely attempt to understand who they are and why they believe the things they do.  This can only take place through meaningful conversations and with a certain amount of humility.

The heartless apologist tends to emphasis St. Peter’s call to, “make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you,” while ignoring his admonition to engage in such apologetics with, “gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15).  He relies, primarily, upon his own knowledge and intellect–using these tools as a weapon to take his opponent down.  When all is said and done, there is a certain amount of pleasure and satisfaction that he enjoys after humiliating his sparing partner.  There is a certain amount of pride that he takes in belittling the beliefs of his enemy; and, whether he knows it or not, this pride manifests itself in every encounter he has with non-believers.

The scriptures teach us that all men are made in the image of God (this includes atheists and charlatans) and are, therefore, valuable and lovable.  It teaches us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves; and even to love our enemies.  Hence, we should not gloat over our enemies or take pleasure in defeating them.  As the scriptures say, “do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it, and be displeased” (Proverbs 24:17-18).  In everything we do we should do it out of love–love for God and love for those made in His image.  Hence, the effective apologist will not make it his aim to beat down his enemy; rather, he will seek to build him up by using his intellectually abilities to point him to the truth which can set him free.

2. Heartless apologists mistakenly believe their great intellect or education will make the Word of the cross “respectable.”  

The heartless apologist puts all of his trust in his intellectual abilities and often puts a lot of stock in his education.  He works hard to hone his abilities through intensive study and sincerely believes that his extensive knowledge coupled with the acquisition of a Ph.D will earn him the utmost respect among non-believers.  The underlying assumption is that attaining these worldly measurements of wisdom will somehow make the gospel respectable among the cultured elite of his day.  In short, his aim is to make the message of the cross less “foolish” through his great learning and scholarly accomplishments.

Again, this approach misses the whole point of apologetics while ignoring the Bible’s clear teaching on the matter.  The primary goal of apologetics is to direct lost sheep to Jesus and to help tear down the barriers which hinder the lost from putting their faith in God.  Secondarily, apologetics is meant to edify believers by providing rational answers to common, and uncommon, questions, concerns, and challenges to the faith.  The goal of apologetics is not to impress people with your great learning or to somehow make Christianity respectable in a worldly sense.

The Word of the cross will never be respectable among those who do not believe no matter how many Ph.D’s you have behind your name.  St. Paul states clearly that, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing . . . for Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (I Cor. 1:18-23).  You may be a genius and you may have attained the highest education in the land but you will still be laughed at and treated like an idiot when you proclaim Christ crucified (no matter how brilliantly you proclaim it).

The word of the cross will always seem foolish to those who do not believe no matter who is proclaiming it and this is okay; because it is not our goal as apologists to make the word of the cross “respectable.”  Our goal is to point people to the word of the cross.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating some form of anti-intellectualism.  I strongly believe that we are to love the Lord through cultivating our mind.  It is extremely important for Christians to be knowledgeable of science and philosophy and to grow in the knowledge of their faith.  It is imperative that Christians enter the world of academia and earn Ph.D’s.  I myself hope to earn a Ph.D in the future.  I’m not disparaging these important pursuits; I’m arguing that we should not put all of our trust in them.  I’m simply pointing out that no amount of intellectualism will make the gospel passe among non-believers and that the goal of apologetics is not to impress the world with our knowledge.

When all is said and done, we must view apologetics as a crucial part of fulfilling Christ’s command to go and make disciples of all  nations and we must engage in apologetics with the heart of Christ–as an act of love.  We defend the faith in order to lead the lost to Christ and to strengthen the faith of struggling believers–not to show off.

Disjunctives, God, and Naturalism: Just Something to Consider

Today I spoke with a student about the existence of God. He had read an essay I put together last year concerning the Damascene Cosmological argument. His ultimate response was, “Well this is just the argument of ignorance.” In other words, even though I had shown naturalism to be illogical and unreasonable, his response was, “Well we haven’t discovered everything about the universe yet.” Now, there are three problems with such a thinking: (1) it ignores the importance of disjunctive arguments, (2) Cosmological arguments aren’t arguments from ignorance (unless purely evidential), and (3) pleading ignorance in order to justify atheism is tantamount to a giant leap of faith (to be fair, the student is a Deist and not an atheist, but he argues that one cannot prove the existence of God, something I partially agree with if we are speaking about purely evidential proof).

First, we must understand the importance of disjunctive propositions when dealing with cosmological arguments. In logic, a disjunctive proposition deals with alternates, generally in scenarios where it is necessarily either/or. Imagine we are looking at a ball and I say, “It is either red or it is blue.” This is not a strict disjunctive because it could be neither red nor blue, but green. If we say the ball isn’t blue, that doesn’t automatically mean it is red, for it could be another color. There is another option available. A true disjunctive would be if we looked at a cat to determine if it is dead or alive. If I prove the cat is not dead, then by necessity the cat must be alive. If I prove the cat is not alive, then by necessity it must be dead. There is no third option. Thus, we have a true either/or.

When we approach cosmological arguments we are dealing with pure disjunctives. The ultimate question of “What caused all things to exist” will either be a natural answer (that is, nature did it and there is no God) or a supernatural answer (that is, God did it and atheism isn’t a proper position). This is a strict either/or and cannot allow for a third option. Thus, if one is shown to be irrational or false in all possible worlds, then the alternative is necessarily true even in the absence of physical evidence. That is what is meant by “disjunctive propositions.” Thus, in cosmological arguments for the existence of God, if it can be shown that naturalism is logically untenable in all possible worlds and it’s impossible for it to work as an explanation for the origin of everything, then by default Theism must be true, even if we have no evidence to prove Theism.

With the above in mind, we can proceed in the argument, showing that cosmological arguments aren’t arguments from ignorance. Sadly, due to pseudo-philosophers writing atheistic articles, the argument of ignorance (or argumentum ad ignorantiam) has been misapplied and misunderstood as to what it covers. The incorrect understand and application has generally used the argument under a de facto epistemology of empiricism. The argument has been applied that to believe in x even if there is a lack of evidence for x and to attempt to have others believe in x without evidence for the validity of x is an argument from ignorance. But such an application is silly, for we have no way to prove (empirically) that what we are experiencing right now isn’t a dream.

Assume that a mad philosopher has found a way to put all humans in to a trance-like state, but cause us to dream together. Thus, we’re in a Matrix-like situation where we think we’re experiencing reality, but in reality we’re actually asleep. Any empirical arguments used to disprove this theory would, in fact, be circular. Therefore, not everything we believe has to have an empirical foundation. Or, as Paul Boghossian argues in Fear of Knowledge,

“Not every belief needs to be supported by some independent item of information that would constitute evidence in its favor: some beliefs are intrinsically credible or self-evident. Philosophers disagree about the range of propositions that they think are self-evident in this sense, and very few believe that their number is large. But ever since Descartes first formulated his famous cognito argument, philosophers have been persuaded that at least some propositions are self-evident. What non-circular evidence could one adduce, for example, for the believe that one is currently conscious?”

What Boghossian is arguing is if we say, “Well I currently see, I currently think, and I currently feel” all assume that such phenomenological experiences aren’t, in fact, illusions. Thus, the empiricist must assume that life as we know it isn’t an illusion in order to prove that life as we know it isn’t an illusion! This would fall under how many atheists have defined the “argument of ignorance.”

A better understanding and how the argument should properly be understood is when people say, “Well you can’t prove x wrong, therefore it must be true.” The fallacy is that just because x can’t be proven false doesn’t necessarily mean that x is true. To use Bertrand Russell’s famous example, we can imagine a China tea cup in orbit between the earth and the moon. Anyone utilizing the argument of ignorance would say that because we can’t prove it’s not true we must therefore assume that there is an actual tea cup orbiting the earth. Now, it could very well be that a tea cup orbits the earth, but our ability to know so wouldn’t be based upon the fact that we can’t disprove it. For instance, I can’t disprove there is an invisible gnome living in my backyard, but that doesn’t mean there is actually an invisible gnome living in my backyard.

How, then, do cosmological arguments fall under the argument of ignorance? The reality is that they don’t. To assert that we know certain things about logic, physics, mathematics, and physical science and that all of these discoveries lead us to believe that naturalism is false isn’t the argument from ignorance. If it were then our entire judicial system would collapse as often times we are simply left with the probability or likelihood of a person’s guilt based on the evidence, though there is a possibility that at a later date evidence could pop up that exonerates the accused. Does this mean we shouldn’t vote for his guilt? Of course not; we must make decisions on the evidence (not just physical evidence, but logical evidence as well) before us.

The same is true when it comes to the cosmological argument; when we point to the improbability of naturalism, or how naturalism is an unlikely explanation (or, logically speaking, an impossible explanation), and conclude that God must exist, we are not making an argument from ignorance. We’re looking at what is currently available to us and making a decision. Likewise, when it comes to logical impossibilities, it is doubtful that we will discover something that overturns what is logically impossible (we’ll never find something that can violate the law of non-contradiction). Thus, if an actual infinite regress of events is impossible, then naturalism can never be a proper explanation, therefore God necessarily exists.

Finally, to say, “Well one day we could discover how the universe occurred naturally, so there’s no reason to believe in God” is akin to a six day creationist saying, “Well someday we could find out that carbon 14 dating and all of evolutionary theory is wrong.” While that is actually possible, it’s not probable or likely. The same is true when atheists say that one day all of physics, mathematics, and logic could be overturned in order to give credence to naturalism; certainly it could occur, but it’s just not likely.

In other words, at such a level atheism becomes an irrational leap of faith, a belief that defies all the evidence against it and keeps on going. While such leaps are sometimes justified, when your entire belief system is a leap of faith then your entire belief system is irrational, that is, most likely not based in reality.

Hopefully the reader will now see that cosmological arguments are not always arguments from ignorance (though some poorly constructed arguments can fall into this category, it is not true that cosmological arguments are necessarily categorized as arguments from ignorance). If they are not arguments from ignorance then they are still logically valid arguments, free from a fallacy, and therefore should be properly dealt with rather than tossed aside.

Damascene Cosmology – Conclusion

We now come to the end St. John’s cosmological argument. We see that all things must either be created or uncreated. There simply is no in-between for them. Something cannot be not created and not uncreated; it must be created or uncreated.

We also know that if something is mutable it is created and if something is immutable then it is uncreated. If it is mutable, it requires a creator because we know that an infinite regress is impossible. The immutable creator, however, is not subject to an infinite regress because he would not be compose of parts or changes and therefore could not be measured by time.

Everything that falls within our experience and all possible objects that could exist that we have yet to experience all require a creator. Such a creator would be, by necessity, God.

But this argument does not leave Christianity void and empty. We know that the Christian God does not change and in being Trinitarian he is the only possible God in existence if God is loving. We know that God did not change in the Incarnation, but rather he changed us.

To the Christians who have read this, I hope that it has strengthened your faith beyond measure. I hope mostly that rather than giving you ammunition to use in some apologetic debate, it has forced you to sit and contemplate on God and grow in him. To those who have sat on the fence, unsure of whether or not God exists, I hope that this removed your intellectual doubts. I hope that it has opened up the path for you to discover Jesus as he is, free from the skepticism of whether or not he existed. I hope you can now embrace that he exists and from there you can discover the beauty that is Christ. To those who remain unconvinced, I hope you at least see that Christianity is reasonable and logically solid. Even if you disagree with my premises, I would hope you see that the argument is sound and would abandon your cries that Christianity is illogical. I hope you have gained a new-found respect for the intellectual capability of Christianity, that we do not accept everything by blind faith, but test all things. To those who are skeptical, hold hostile feelings towards Christianity, and still find Christianity to be stupid, I pray that you will embrace civility and reason. To all, I pray that these arguments either make your current relationship with God deeper or would open you up to have a relationship with him, for intellectual acknowledgement is not enough; we must love him as he has loved us. Continue reading

Damascene Cosmology – On the Incarnation

We now come back to the original point of the last objection the critic may have in recognizing both Damascene Cosmology and Christianity to be true, in the Incarnation God changed. Certainly, to say “God became man” is an accepted phrase or that “God dwelt within Jesus” is part of our orthodox beliefs. But does this indicate that God changed in the Incarnation?

It is true that the person of Christ took on a human nature, but this does not mean that the Word changed. In taking on a human nature, the Divine nature did not mold with the human nature. Jesus was not a third type of nature, a Christian version of some Greek myth where he is part human and part God. In the person fo Christ the whole divine nature and the whole human nature existed, not as a composed single substance, but as two natures within one person.

When Christians speak of the mystery of the Incarnation the mystery they refer to is that two natures existed within two people. How such an event can be accomplished is beyond us, but it is necessary to understand that Christ, though one person, had two natures and acted through both natures. Both natures worked together and in perfect harmony, meaning that the person of Christ experienced life as a human without giving up who he was as God.

When the Divine nature, a nature the Word participated in, took on a human nature this did not change the divine nature. Nothing change in the Father, the Word, or the Spirit and they remained as they were prior to the Incarnation. What was true of the Word prior to the Incarnation remained true after the Incarnation. Any new things we could say about the Word we were saying about his human nature and not about his divine nature. When we say that “Jesus suffered,” implicit within such a statement is, “The human nature within the person of Christ suffered while the divine nature did not suffer.” Again, this is a mystery how the person of Christ could both suffer and not suffer, but it is not a contradiction because of the two natures; it would only be a contradiction if one nature existed. Continue reading

Damascene Ontology – How we know God is Trinitarian

We know that God necessarily exists and that the act of creation was a sacrifice. We know that God did not create simply to be a mean child because this would mean he lacked something, but how do we know that he didn’t lack someone to love prior to creation?

It is only in the Trinity that we can explain how God is loving yet unchanging. It goes back to the distinction within the Trinity between the persons of God. If God is love, then God must have someone to love. Since creation took place at a point in time, while creation is indicative of God’s love, it cannot be the point where God began to love. Rather, if God is love, then he must have loved eternally, but this would be impossible if God were singular. In a Trinity, however, such a feat is possible.

The Father, being love, must love someone. In this love he must be sacrificial, hoping to gain nothing, but how can this be done absent of creation? The Father could love the Son and in loving the Son he could share everything he is with the Son, that is, he could make the Son equal to himself. What does the Father gain in making the Son equal? Nothing, but he sacrifices any potential selfishness or vainglory in doing so. The Son, being equal with the Father in all aspects, would willingly love the Father as much as the Father loves the Son. His sacrifice would come in following the will of the Father, though he could form his own will (this would later be demonstrated in the death of Christ).

But what is love between two when it can be shared? If a husband and wife refuse to share their love, then are they not selfish? I do not mean by having an open marriage, but by not having children. Or if they refuse to love anyone else because they are too focused on each other, would this not indicate selfishness? Likewise, with the Father and Son it follows that they would have a third person to love so that they may share in equality with this third person. This person is the Spirit.

The Spirit equally loves the Father and Son as they love him. All three are equals, love each other equally, and share in all attributes, save for being begotten and proceeding. We cannot explain how sacrifice exists within the Trinity, only to say that the Father holds the Son and Spirit as equal and that the Son and Spirit obey the will of the Father. Continue reading