marți, 29 aprilie 2008

The 4 Primary Arguments for God's Existence

by Michael J. Vlach, Ph.D.

Perhaps the hottest topic in all of philosophy concerns the existence of God. Thus the question—“Does God exist?”

Our answer to this question affects how we view the world, how we behave, and what we expect for the future.

If God exists, then we are probably accountable to this God. The universe may have meaning and purpose. Plus, our own existence may not cease at physical death. If God does not exist, however, then we are probably here by chance and are not accountable to some transcendent being. This life may be all we have, so live your life however you see fit and enjoy it.

Traditionally, there have been four major arguments for God’s existence: (1) the cosmological argument; (2) the teleological argument; (3) the ontological argument; and (4) the moral law argument. Below are explanations of each of the arguments and the common responses to them.

1. Cosmological Argument
The term “cosmological” comes from the Greek word “kosmos” which means “world.”

The cosmological argument for God’s existence goes like this: The world could not exist on its own so there must have been a first cause that brought it into being. This first cause is God. Or put another way, the universe could not just exist on its own—someone or something must have made it. This cause of the universe is God.

Three criticisms of the cosmological argument have been offered. First, some say matter is eternal and is not in need of a “first cause.” Second, some say “If everything needs a cause, what caused God?” Third, some say that even if it is true that some being caused our universe to exist, this does not prove the existence of the Christian God. All it shows is that there is some powerful being that created the universe, but this does not necessarily mean that this creator was the God of the Bible.

2. Teleological Argument
The teleological argument is also known as “the argument from design” (The Greek word “telos” means “purpose” or “design.”). The argument goes like this: The universe evidences great complexity or design; thus, it must have been designed by a great Designer or God.

The argument from design can be likened to a watch. A watch is obviously made by a watchmaker. The world, which is much more complex than a watch, must also have been designed by a great Designer or Divine Watchmaker (God).

In sum, the teleological argument asserts that the universe evidences too much complexity to be the product of random chance. We know that the celestial bodies move with perfect accuracy in their orbits. Our bodies, too, are incredibly complex. According to the teleological argument, there’s just no way all this complexity could “just happen.” God must have created it all.

There have been three responses to the teleological argument. First, some say the teleological argument is guilty of a “weak analogy” because it assumes a significant resemblance between natural objects (ex. rocks, trees) and objects we know have been designed (ex. watches, skyscrapers). Thus, comparing natural objects with objects we know have been created by humans is like comparing apples and oranges. The analogy just doesn’t work. Second, some say that the theories of the big bang and evolution better explain the complexity in the universe. Third, some say that even if the teleological argument is true, it does not prove the existence of the Christian God.

3. Ontological Argument
The third argument for God’s existence is the ontological argument. This argument is unlike the cosmological and teleological arguments in that it does not argue from evidence in the natural world. Thus, it is not a “cause and effect” argument.

The ontological argument can be stated in this way: “God is the greatest being imaginable. One of the aspects of perfection or greatness is existence. Thus, God exists.” Or put another way—“The fact that God can be conceived means that he must exist.”

This argument for God’s existence was developed by the twelfth century theologian and philosopher, Anselm. It is based on Anselm’s declaration that God is “that which nothing greater can be conceived.”

The ontological argument has been very controversial. Even many who believe in God’s existence question its validity. A contemporary of Anselm named Guanilo responded to Anselm. Guanilo said that one could imagine a perfect island but that did not mean a perfect island exists. Others have said you can imagine a unicorn but that does not mean unicorns exist. Thus, many challenge the idea that the idea of God must mean that God exists.

4. Moral Law Argument
Another argument for the existence of God is the moral law argument. It goes like this: Without God morality would be impossible. There must be a Lawgiver (God) who originates and stands by moral law. A universal moral law cannot exist accidentally. There must be a basis behind it—God.

According to this view, every person is born with an inherent understanding of right and wrong. Everyone, for instance, understands that killing an innocent person is wrong. Everyone understands that helping a drowning person is right. Where did this internal understanding of right and wrong come from? According to adherents of the moral law argument, this understanding comes from God. He put it into the hearts of every person.

There have been two responses to the moral law argument. First, some deny that there are universal truths. Many today believe that truth is subjective and relative. Societies and individuals determine what is true for them, but there is no God that does this. Second, some say that the presence of evil in the world argues against a Moral Lawgiver. If God is all-powerful and all-good, how can evil exist in the world?

The arguments and counterarguments for God’s existence remain controversial. The cosmological, teleological, and moral law arguments remain popular with Christian apologists today. The ontological argument is not as well received although some today still asserts its validity.

It should be noted that most Christian theologians and philosophers believe that God never intended for his existence to be something that could be proven with 100% certainty. They point out that faith is an important component in understanding God and his existence.

marți, 22 aprilie 2008


by Joseph Hontheim

This subject will be treated under seven headings:


The Name of Heaven
Heaven (Anglo-Saxon heofon, O.S. hevan and himil, originally himin) corresponds to the Gothic himin-s. Both heaven and himil are formed from himin by a regular change of consonants: heaven, by changing m before n into v; and himil, by changing n of the unaccented ending into l. Some derive heaven from the root ham, "to cover" (cf. the Gothic ham-ôn and the German Hem-d). According to this derivation heaven would be conceived as the roof of the world. Others trace a connection between himin (heaven) and home; according to this view, which seems to be the more probable, heaven would be the abode of the Godhead. The Latin coelum (koilon, a vault) is derived by many from the root of celare "to cover, to conceal" (coelum, "ceiling" "roof of the world"). Others, however think it is connected with the Germanic himin. The Greek ouranos is probably derived from the root var, which also connotes the idea of covering. The Hebrew name for heaven is thought to be derived from a word meaning "on high"; accordingly, heaven would designate the upper region of the world.
In the Holy Bible the term heaven denotes, in the first place, the blue firmament, or the region of the clouds that pass along the sky. Genesis 1:20, speaks of the birds "under the firmament of heaven". In other passages it denotes the region of the stars that shine in the sky. Furthermore heaven is spoken of as the dwelling of God; for, although God is omnipresent, He manifests Himself in a special manner in the light and grandeur of the firmament. Heaven also is the abode of the angels; for they are constantly with God and see His face. With God in heaven are likewise the souls of the just (2 Corinthians 5:1; Matthew 5:3, 12). In Ephesians 4:8 sq., we are told that Christ conducted to heaven the patriarchs who had been in limbo (limbus patrum). Thus the term heaven has come to designate both the happiness and the abode of just in the next life. The present article treats as heaven in this sense only.

In Holy Scripture it is called:
the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3),
the kingdom of God (Mark 9:46),
the kingdom of the Father (Matthew 13:43),
the kingdom of Christ (Luke 22:30),
the house of the Father (John 14:2),
city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12),
the holy place (Hebrews 9:12; D.V. holies),
paradise (2 Corinthians 12:4),
life (Matthew 7:14),
life everlasting (Matthew 19:16),
the joy of the Lord (Matthew 25:21),
crown of life (James 1:12),
crown of justice (2 Timothy 4:8),
crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4),
incorruptible crown (1 Corinthians 9:25),
great reward (Matthew 5:12),
inheritance of Christ (Ephesians 1:18),
eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15).

The Location of Heaven
Where is heaven, the dwelling of God and the blessed?
Some are of opinion that heaven is everywhere, as God is everywhere. According to this view the blessed can move about freely in every part of the universe, and still remain with God and see everywhere. Everywhere, too, they remain with Christ (in His sacred Humanity) and with the saints and the angels. For, according to the advocates of this opinion, the spatial distances of this world must no longer impede the mutual intercourse of blessed.
In general, however, theologians deem more appropriate that there should be a special and glorious abode, in which the blessed have their peculiar home and where they usually abide, even though they be free to go about in this world. For the surroundings in the midst of which the blessed have their dwelling must be in accordance with their happy state; and the internal union of charity which joins them in affection must find its outward expression in community of habitation. At the end of the world, the earth together with the celestial bodies will be gloriously transformed into a part of the dwelling-place of the blessed (Revelation 21). Hence there seems to be no sufficient reason for attributing a metaphorical sense to those numerous utterances of the Bible which suggest a definite dwelling-place of the blessed. Theologians, therefore, generally hold that the heaven of the blessed is a special place with definite limits. Naturally, this place is held to exist, not within the earth, but, in accordance with the expressions of Scripture, without and beyond its limits. All further details regarding its locality are quite uncertain. The Church has decided nothing on this subject.


There is a heaven, i.e., God will bestow happiness and the richest gifts on all those who depart this life free from original sin and personal mortal sin, and who are, consequently, in the state of justice and friendship with God. Concerning the purification of those just souls who depart in venial sin or who are still subject to temporal punishment for sin, see PURGATORY. On the lot of those who die free from personal sin, but infected with original sin, see LIMBO (limbus pervulorum). On the immediate beginning of eternal happiness after death, or eventually, after the passage through purgatory, see PARTICULAR JUDGMENT. The existence of heaven is, of course, denied by atheists, materialists, and pantheists of all centuries as well as by those rationalists who teach that the soul perishes with the body — in short, by all who deny the existence of God or the immortality of the soul. But, for the rest, if we abstract from the specific quality and the supernatural character of heaven, the doctrine has never met with any opposition worthy of note. Even mere reason can prove the existence of heaven or of the happy state of the just in the next life. -->
We shall give a brief outline of the principal arguments. From these we shall, at the same time, see that the bliss of heaven is eternal and consists primarily in the possession of God, and that heaven presupposes a condition of perfect happiness, in which every wish of the heart finds adequate satisfaction.
God made all things for His objective honour and glory. Every creature was to manifest His Divine perfections by becoming a likeness of God, each according to its capacity. But man is capable of becoming in the greatest and most perfect manner a likeness of God, when he knows and loves His infinite perfections with a knowledge and love analogous to God's own love and knowledge. Therefore man is created to know God and to love Him. Moreover, this knowledge and love is to be eternal; for such is man's capability and his calling, because his soul is immortal. Lastly, to know God and to love Him is the noblest occupation of the human mind, and consequently also its supreme happiness. Therefore man is created for eternal happiness; and he will infallibly attain it hereafter, unless, by sin, he renders himself unworthy of so high a destiny.
God made all things for His formal glory, which consists in the knowledge and love shown Him by rational creatures. Irrational creatures cannot give formal glory to God directly, but they should assist rational creatures in doing so. This they can do by manifesting God's perfections and by rendering other services; whilst rational creatures should, by their own personal knowledge and love of God, refer and direct all creatures to Him as their last end. Therefore every intelligent creature in general, and man in particular, is destined to know and love God for ever, though he may forfeit eternal happiness by sin.
God, in his infinite justice and holiness, must give virtue its due reward. But, as experience teaches, the virtuous do not obtain a sufficient reward here; hence they will be recompensed hereafter, and the reward must be everlasting, since the soul is immortal. Nor can it be supposed that the soul in the next life must merit her continuance in happiness by a continued series of combats; for this would be repugnant to all the tendencies and desires of human nature.
God, in His wisdom, must set on the moral law a sanction, sufficiently appropriate and efficacious. But, unless each man is rewarded according to the measure of his good works, such a sanction could not be said to exist. Mere infliction of punishment for sin would be insufficient. In any case, reward for good deeds is the best means of inspiring zeal for virtue. Nature itself teaches us to reward virtue in others whenever we can, and to hope for a reward of our own good actions from the Supreme Ruler of the universe. That reward, not being given here, will be given hereafter.
God has implanted in the heart of man a love of virtue and a love of happiness; consequently, God, because of His wisdom, must by rewarding virtue establish perfect harmony between these two tendencies. But such a harmony is not established in this life; therefore it will be brought about in the next.
Every man has an innate desire for perfect beatitude. Experience proves this. The sight of the imperfect goods of earth naturally leads us to form the conception of a happiness so perfect as to satisfy all the desires of our heart. But we cannot conceive such a state without desiring it. Therefore we are destined for a happiness that is perfect and, for that very reason, eternal; and it will be ours, unless we forfeit it by sin. A natural tendency without an object is incompatible both with nature and with the Creator's goodness. The arguments thus far advanced prove the existence of heaven as a state of perfect happiness.
We are born for higher things, for the possession of God. This earth can satisfy no man, least of all the wise. "Vanity of vanities", says the Scripture (Ecclesiastes 1:1); and St. Augustine exclaimed: "Thou hast made us for Thyself (O God) and our heart is troubled till it rests in Thee."
We are created for wisdom, for a possession of truth perfect in its kind. Our mental faculties and the aspirations of our nature give proof of this. But the scanty knowledge, that we can acquire on earth stands in no proportion to the capabilities of our soul. We shall possess truth in higher perfection hereafter.
God made us for holiness, for a complete and final triumph over passion and for the perfect and secure possession of virtue. Our natural aptitudes and desires bear witness to this. But this happy goal is not reached on earth, but in the next life.
We are created for love and friendship, for indissoluble union with our friends. At the grave of those we love our heart longs for a future reunion. This cry of nature is no delusion. A joyful and everlasting reunion awaits the just man beyond the grave.
It is the conviction of all peoples that there is a heaven in which the just will rejoice in the next life. But, in the fundamental questions of our being and our destiny, a conviction, so unanimous and universal, cannot be erroneous. Otherwise this world and the order of this world would remain an utter enigma to intelligent creatures, who ought to know at least the necessary means for reaching their appointed end.
Very few deny the existence of heaven; and these few are practically all atheists and epicureans. But surely it cannot be that all the rest have erred, and an isolated class of men such as these are not the true guides in the most fundamental questions of our being. For apostasy from God and His law cannot be the key to wisdom.
Revelation also proclaims the existence of heaven. This we have already seen in the preceding section from the many names by which the Bible designates heaven; and from the texts of Scripture, still to be quoted on the nature and peculiar conditions of heaven.


(1) In heaven the just will see God by direct intuition, clearly and distinctly. Here on earth we have no immediate perception of God; we see Him but indirectly in the mirror of creation. We get our first and direct knowledge from creatures, and then, by reasoning from these, we ascend to a knowledge of God according to the imperfect likeness which creatures bear to their Creator. But in doing so we proceed to a large extent by way of negation, i.e., by removing from the Divine Being the imperfections proper to creatures. In heaven, however, no creature will stand between God and the soul. He himself will be the immediate object of its vision. Scripture and theology tell us that the blessed see God face to face. And because this vision is immediate and direct, it is also exceedingly clear and distinct. Ontologists assert that we perceive God directly in this life, though our knowledge of Him is vague and obscure; but a vision of the Divine Essence, immediate yet vague and obscure, implies a contradiction. The blessed see God, not merely according to the measure of His likeness imperfectly reflected in creation, but they see Him as He is, after the manner of His own Being. That the blessed see God is a dogma of faith, expressly defined by Benedict XII (1336):
We define that the souls of all the saints in heaven have seen and do see the Divine Essence by direct intuition and face to face [visione intuitivâ et etiam faciali], in such wise that nothing created intervenes as an object of vision, but the Divine Essence presents itself to their immediate gaze, unveiled, clearly and openly; moreover, that in this vision they enjoy the Divine Essence, and that, in virtue of this vision and this enjoyment, they are truly blessed and possess eternal life and eternal rest" (Denzinger, Enchiridion, ed. 10, n. 530--old edition, n, 456; cf. nn. 693, 1084, 1458 old, nn. 588, 868).
The Scriptural argument is based especially on 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (cf. Matthew 18:10; 1 John 3:2; 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, etc.). The argument from tradition is carried out in detail by Petavius ("De. theol. dogm.", I, i, VII, c. 7). Several Fathers, who seemingly contradict this doctrine, in reality maintain it; they merely teach that the bodily eye cannot see God, or that the blessed do not fully comprehend God, or that the soul cannot see God with its natural powers in this life (cf. Francisco Suárez, "De Deo", l. II, c. 7, n. 17).
(2) It is of faith that the beatific vision is supernatural, that it transcends the powers and claims of created nature, of angels as well as of men. The opposite doctrine of the Beghards and Beguines was condemned (1311) by the Council of Vienne (Denz., n. 475 -- old, n. 403), and likewise a similar error of Baius by Pius V (Denz., n. 1003 -- old, n. 883). The Vatican Council expressly declared that man has been elevated by God to a supernatural end (Denz., n. 1786 -- old, n. 1635; cf. nn. 1808, 1671 -- old, nn. 1655, 1527). In this connection we must also mention the condemnation of the Ontologists, and in particular of Rosmini, who held that an immediate but indeterminate perception of God is essential to the human intellect and the beginning of all human knowledge (Denz., nn. 1659, 1927 -- old, nn. 1516, 1772).
That the vision of God is supernatural can also be shown from the supernatural character of sanctifying grace (Denz., n. 1021 -- old, n. 901); for, if the preparation for that vision is supernatural. Even unaided reason recognizes that the immediate vision of God, even if it be at all possible, can never be natural for a creature. For it is manifest that every created mind first perceives its own self and creatures similar to itself by which it is surrounded, and from these it rises to a knowledge of God as the source of their being and their last end. Hence its natural knowledge of God is necessarily mediate and analogous; since it forms its ideas and judgments about God after the imperfect likeness which its own self and its surroundings bear to Him. Such is the only means nature offers for acquiring a knowledge of God, and more than this is not due to any created intellect; consequently, the second and essentially higher way of seeing God by intuitive vision can but be a gratuitous gift of Divine goodness.
These considerations prove, not merely that the immediate vision of God exceeds the natural claims of all creatures in actual existence; but they also prove against Ripalda, Becaenus, and others (Recently also Morlias), that God cannot create any spirit which would, by virtue of its nature, be entitled to the intuitive vision of the Divine Essence. Therefore, as theologians express it, no created substance is of its nature supernatural; however, the Church has given no decision on this matter. Cf. Palmieri, "De Deo creante et elevante" (Rome, 1878), thes. 39; Morlais, "Le Surnaturel absolu", in "Revue du Clergé Français", XXXI (1902), 464 sqq., and, for the opposite view, Bellamy, "La question du Surnaturel absolu", ibid., XXXV (1903), 419 sqq. St. Thomas seems to teach (I, Q. xii, a. 1) that man has a natural desire for the beatific vision. Elsewhere, however, he frequently insists on the supernatural character of that vision (e.g. III, Q. ix, a. 2, ad 3um). Hence in the former place he obviously supposes that man knows from revelation both the possibility of the beatific vision and his destiny to enjoy it. On this supposition it is indeed quite natural for man to have so strong a desire for that vision, that any inferior kind of beatitude can no longer duly satisfy him.
(3) To enable it to see God, the intellect of the blessed is supernaturally perfected by the light of glory (lumen gloriae). This was defined by the Council of Vienne in 1311 (Denz., n. 475; old, n. 403); and it is also evident from the supernatural character of the beatific vision. For the beatific vision transcends the natural powers of the intellect; therefore, to see God the intellect stands in need of some supernatural strength, not merely transient, but permanent as the vision itself. This permanent invigoration is called the "light of glory", because it enables the souls in glory to see God with their intellect, just as material light enables our bodily eyes to see corporeal objects.
On the nature of the light of glory the Church has decided nothing. Theologians have elaborated various theories about it, which, however, need not be examined in detail. According to the view commonly and perhaps most reasonably held, the light of glory is a quality Divinely infused into the soul and similar to sanctifying grace, the virtue of faith, and the other supernatural virtues in the souls of the just (cf. Franzelin, "De Deo uno", 3rd ed., Rome, 1883, thes. 16). It is controverted among theologians whether or not a mental image, be it a species expressa or a species impressa, is required for the beatific vision. But by many this is regarded as largely a controversy about the appropriateness of the term, rather than about the matter itself. The more common and probably more correct view denies the presence of any image in the strict sense of the word, because no created image can represent God as He is (cf. Mazzella, "De Deo creante", 3rd ed., Rome, 1892, disp. IV, a. 7, sec. 1). The beatific vision is obviously a created act inherent in the soul, and not, as a few of the older theologians thought, the uncreated act of God's own intellect communicated to the soul. For, "as seeing and knowing are immanent vital actions, the soul can see or know God by its own activity only, and not through any activity exerted by some other intellect. Cf. Gutherlet, "Das lumen gloriae" in "Pastor bonus", XIV (1901), 297 sqq.
(4) Theologians distinguish the primary and the secondary object of the beatific vision. The primary object is God Himself as He is. The blessed see the Divine Essence by direct intuition, and, because of the absolute simplicity of God, they necessarily see all His perfections and all the persons of the Trinity. Moreover, since they see that God can create countless imitations of His Essence, the entire domain of possible creatures lies open to their view, though indeterminately and in general. For the actual decrees of God are not necessarily an object of that vision, except in as afar as God pleases to manifest them. Therefore finite things are not necessarily seen by the blessed, even if they are an actual object of God's will. Still less are they a necessary object of vision as long as they are mere possible objects of the Divine will. Consequently the blessed have a distinct knowledge of individual possible things only in so far as God wishes to grant this knowledge. Thus, if God so willed, a blessed soul might see the Divine Essence without seeing in it the possibility of any individual creature in particular. But in fact, there is always connected with the beatific vision a knowledge of various things external to God, of the possible as well as of the actual. All these things, taken collectively, constitute the secondary object of the beatific vision.
The blessed soul sees these secondary objects in God either directly (formaliter), or in as far as God is their cause (causaliter). It sees in God directly whatever the beatific vision discloses to its immediate gaze without the aid of any created mental image (species impressa). In God, as in their cause, the soul sees all those things which it perceives with the aid of a created mental image, a mode of perception granted by God as a natural complement of the beatific vision. The number of objects seen directly in God cannot be increased unless the beatific vision itself be intensified; but the number of things seen in God as their cause may be greater of smaller, or it may very without any corresponding change in the vision itself.
The secondary object of the beatific vision comprises everything the blessed may have a reasonable interest in knowing. It includes, in the first place, all the mysteries which the soul believed while on earth. Moreover, the blessed see each other and rejoice in the company of those whom death separated from them. The veneration paid them on earth and the prayers addressed to them are also known to the blessed. All that we have said on the secondary object of the beatific vision is the common and reliable teaching of theologians. In recent times (Holy Office, 14 Dec., 1887) Rosmini was condemned because he taught that the blessed do not see God Himself, but only His relations to creatures (Denz., 1928-1930 -- old, 1773-75). In the earlier ages we find Gregory the Great ("Moral.", l. XVIII, c. liv, n. 90, in P.L., LXXVI, XCIII) combating the error of a few who maintained that the blessed to not see God, but only a brilliant light streaming forth from Him. Also in the Middle Ages there are traces of this error (cf. Franzelin, "De Deo uno", 2nd ed., thes. 15, p. 192).
(5) Although the blessed see God, they do not comprehend Him, because God is absolutely incomprehensible to every created intellect, and He cannot grant to any creature the power of comprehending Him as He comprehends Himself. Francisco Suárez rightly calls this a revealed truth ("De Deo", l. II, c. v, n. 6); for the Fourth Council of the Lateran and the Vatican Council enumerated incomprehensibility among the absolute attributes of God (Denz., nn. 428, 1782 -- old nn. 355, 1631). The Fathers defend this truth against Eunomius, an Arian, who asserted that we comprehend God fully even in this life. The blessed comprehend God neither intensively nor extensively — not intensively, because their vision has not that infinite clearness with which God is knowable and with which He knows Himself, nor extensively, because their vision does not actually and clearly extend to everything that God sees in His Essence. For they cannot by a single act of their intellect represent every possible creature individually, clearly, and distinctly, as God does; such an act would be infinite, and an infinite act is incompatible with the nature of a created and finite intellect. The blessed see the Godhead in its entirety, but only with a limited clearness of vision (Deum totum sed non totaliter). They see the Godhead in its entirety, because they see all the perfections of God and all the Persons of the Trinity; and yet their vision is limited, because it has neither the infinite clearness that corresponds to the Divine perfections, nor does it extend to everything that actually is, or may still become, an object of God's free decrees. Hence it follows that one blessed soul may see God more perfectly than another, and that the beatific vision admits of various degrees.
(6) The beatific vision is a mystery. Of course reason cannot prove the impossibility of such a vision. For why should God, in His omnipotence, be unable to draw so near and adapt Himself so fully to our intellect, that the soul may, as it were, directly feel Him and lay hold of Him and look on Him and become entirely immersed in Him? On the other hand, we cannot prove absolutely that this is possible; for the beatific vision lies beyond the natural destiny of our intellect, and it is so extraordinary a mode of perception that we cannot clearly understand either the fact or the manner of its possibility.
(7) From what has been thus far said it is clear that there is a twofold beatitude: the natural and the supernatural. As we have seen, man is by nature entitled to beatitude, provided he does not forfeit it by his own fault. We have also seen that beatitude is eternal and that it consists in the possession of God, for creatures cannot truly satisfy man. Again, as we have shown, the soul is to possess God by knowledge and love. But the knowledge to which man is entitled by nature is not an immediate vision, but an analogous perception of God in the mirror of creation, still a very perfect knowledge which really satisfies the heart. Hence the beatitude to which alone we have a natural claim consists in that perfect analogous knowledge and in the love corresponding to that knowledge. This natural beatitude is the lowest kind of felicity which God, in His goodness and wisdom, can grant to sinless man. But, instead of an analogous knowledge of His Essence He may grant to the blessed a direct intuition which includes all the excellence of natural beatitude and surpasses it beyond measure. It is this higher kind of beatitude that it has pleased God to grant us. And by granting it He not merely satisfies our natural desire for happiness but He satisfies it in superabundance.


It is a dogma of faith that the happiness of the blessed is everlasting. This truth is clearly contained in the Holy Bible (see Section I); it is daily professed by the Church in the Apostles' Creed (credo . . . vitam aeternam), and it has been repeatedly defined by the Church, especially by Benedict XII (cf. Section III). Even reason, as we have seen, can demonstrate it. And surely, if the blessed knew that their happiness was ever to come to an end, this knowledge alone would prevent their happiness from being perfect.
In this matter Origen fell into error; for in several passages of his works he seems to incline to the opinion that rational creatures never reach a permanent final state (status termini), but that they remain forever capable of falling away from God and losing their beatitude and of always returning to Him again.
The blessed are confirmed in good; they can no longer commit even the slightest venial sin; every wish of their heart is inspired by the purest love of God. That is, beyond doubt, Catholic doctrine. Moreover this impossibility of sinning is physical. The blessed have no longer the power of choosing to do evil actions; they cannot but love God; they are merely free to show that love by one good action in preference to another. But whilst the impeccability of the blessed appears to be unanimously held by theologians, there is a diversity of opinion as to its cause. According to some, its proximate cause consists in this that God absolutely withholds from the blessed His co-operation to any sinful consent. The beatific vision does not, they argue, of its very nature exclude sin directly and absolutely; because God may still displease the blessed soul in various ways, e.g., by refusing a higher degree to beatitude, or by letting persons whom that soul loves die in sin and sentencing them to eternal torment. Moreover, when great sufferings and arduous duties accompany the beatific vision, as was the case in the human nature of Christ on earth, then at least the possibility of sin is not directly and absolutely excluded.
The ultimate cause of impeccability is the freedom from sin or the state of grace in which at his death man passes into the final state (status termini), i.e. into a state of unchangeable attitude of mind and will. For it is quite in consonance with the nature of that state that God should offer only such co-operation as corresponds to the mental attitude man chose for himself on earth. For this reason also the souls in purgatory, although they do not see God, are still utterly incapable of sin. The beatific vision itself may be called a remote cause of impeccability; for by granting so wondrous a token of His love, God may be said to undertake the obligation of guarding from all sin those whom He so highly favours, whether by refusing all co-operation to evil acts or in some other manner. Besides, even if the clear vision of God, most worthy of their love, does not render the blessed physically unable, it certainly renders them less liable, to sin.
Impeccability, as explained by the representatives of this opinion, is not, properly speaking, extrinsic, as is often wrongly asserted; but it is rather intrinsic, because it is strictly due to the final state of blessedness and especially to the beatific vision. This is substantially the opinion of the Scotists, likewise of many others, especially in recent times. Nevertheless the Thomists, and with them the greater number of theologians, maintain that the beatific vision of its very nature directly excludes the possibility of sin. For no creature can have a clear intuitive view of the Supreme Good without being by that very fact alone irresistibly drawn to love it efficaciously and to fulfil for its sake even the most arduous duties without the least repugnance. The Church has left this matter undecided. The present writer rather inclines to the opinion of the Scotists because of its bearing on the question of the liberty of Christ. (See HELL under the heading Impenitence of the Damned.)


We distinguish objective and subjective beatitude. Objective beatitude is that good, the possession of which makes us happy; subjective beatitude is the possession of that good. The essence of objective beatitude, or the essential object of beatitude is God alone. For the possession of God assures us also the possession of every other good we may desire; moreover, everything else is so immeasurably inferior to God that its possession can only be looked upon as something accidental to beatitude. Finally, that all else is of minor importance for beatitude is evident from the fact that nothing save God alone is capable of satisfying man. Accordingly the essence of subjective beatitude is the possession of God, and it consists in the acts of vision, love, and joy. The blessed love God with a twofold love; with the love of complacency, by which they love God for His own sake, and secondly with the love less properly so called, by which they love Him as the source of their happiness (amor concupiscentiae). In consonance with this twofold love the blessed have a twofold joy; firstly, the joy of love in the strict sense of the word, by which they rejoice over the infinite beatitude which they see in God Himself, precisely because it is the happiness of God whom they love, and secondly, the joy springing from love in a wider sense, by which they rejoice in God because He is the source of their own supreme happiness. These five acts constitute the essence of (subjective) beatitude, or in more precise terms, its physical essence. In this theologians agree.
Here theologians go a step farther and inquire whether among those five acts of the blessed there is one act, or a combination of several acts, which constitutes the essence of beatitude in a stricter sense, i.e. its metaphysical essence in contradistinction to its physical essence. In general their answer is affirmative; but in assigning the metaphysical essence their opinions diverge. The present writer prefers the opinion of St. Thomas, who holds that the metaphysical essence consists in the vision alone. For, as we have just seen, the acts of love and joy are merely a kind of secondary attributes of the vision; and this remains true, whether love and joy result directly from the vision, as the Thomists hold, or whether the beatific vision by its very nature calls for confirmation in love and God's efficacious protection against sin.


Besides the essential object of beatitude the souls in heaven enjoy many blessings accidental to beatitude. We shall mention only a few:
In heaven there is not the least pain or sadness; for every aspiration of nature must be finally realized. The will of the blessed is in perfect harmony with the Divine will; they feel displeasure at the sins of men, but without experiencing any real pain.
They delight greatly in the company of Christ, the angels, and the saints, and in the reunion with so many who were dear to them on earth.
After the resurrection the union of the soul with the glorified body will be a special source of joy for the blessed.
They derive great pleasure from the contemplation of all those things, both created and possible, which, as we have shown, they see in God, at least indirectly as in the cause. And, in particular, after the last judgment the new heaven and the new earth will afford them manifold enjoyment. (See GENERAL JUDGMENT.)
The blessed rejoice over sanctifying grace and the supernatural virtues that adorn their soul; and any sacramental character they may have also adds to their bliss.
Very special joys are granted to the martyrs, doctors, and virgins, a special proof of victories won in time of trial (Revelation 7:11 sq.; Daniel 12:3; Revelation 14:3 sq.). Hence theologians speak of three particular crowns, aureolas, or glorioles, by which these three classes of blessed souls are accidentally honoured beyond the rest. Aureola is a diminutive of aurea, i.e. aurea corona (golden crown). (Cf. St. Thomas, Supp:96.)
Since eternal happiness is metaphorically called a marriage of the soul with Christ, theologians also speak of the bridal endowments of the blessed. They distinguish seven of these gifts, four of which belong to the glorified body — light, impassibility, agility, subtility (see RESURRECTION); and three to the soul — vision, possession, enjoyment (visio, comprehensio, fruitio). Yet in the explanation given by the theologians of the three gifts of the soul we find but little conformity. We may identify the gift of vision with the habit of the light of glory, the gift of possession with the habit of that love in a wider sense which has found in God the fulfilment of its desires, and the gift of enjoyment we may identify with the habit of love properly so called (halitus caritatis) which rejoices to be with God; in this view these three infused habits would he considered simply as ornaments to beautify the soul. (Cf. St. Thomas, Supp:95)


There are various degrees of beatitude in heaven corresponding to the various degrees of merit. This is a dogma of faith, defined by the Council of Florence (Denz., n. 693 -- old, n. 588). The Bible teaches this truth in very many passages (e.g., wherever it speaks of eternal happiness as a reward), and the Fathers defend it against the heretical attacks of Jovinian. It is true that, according to Matthew 20:1-16, each labourer receives a penny; but by this comparison Christ merely teaches that, although the Gospel was preached to the Jews first, yet in the Kingdom of Heaven there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, and that no one will receive a greater reward merely because of being a son of Judah. The various degrees of beatitude are not limited to the accidental blessings, but they are found first and foremost in the beatific vision itself. For, as we have already pointed out, the vision, too, admits of degrees. These essential degrees of beatitude are, as Francisco Suárez rightly observes ("De beat.", d. xi, s. 3, n. 5), that threefold fruit Christ distinguishes when He says that the word of God bears fruit in some thirty, in some sixty, in some a hundredfold (Matthew 13:23). And it is by a mere accommodation of the text that St. Thomas (Supp:96, aa. 2 sqq.) and other theologians apply this text to the different degrees in the accidental beatitude merited by married persons, widows, and virgins.
The happiness of heaven is essentially unchangeable; still it admits of some accidental changes. Thus we may suppose that the blessed experience special joy when they receive greater veneration from men on earth. In particular, a certain growth in knowledge by experience is not excluded; for instance, as time goes on, new free actions of men may become known to the blessed, or personal observation and experience may throw a new light on things already known. And after the last judgment accidental beatitude will receive some increase from the union of soul and body, and from the sight of the new heaven and the earth.

Publication information
Written by Joseph Hontheim.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

joi, 17 aprilie 2008

Philosophy and the proof of God's existence

One of the most far-reaching consequences of the rationalism of the Enlightenment was the undermining of basic Christian faith among the educated classes. The effect was unintended because the project of many Enlightenment philosophers was to prove the existence of God using reason: Descartes and Leibniz assumed that God's existence could be rationally proved, indeed God was a necessary part of their philosophy.
There are many traditional "proofs" for the existence of God, and we will look at three of them: The argument from design, the ontological argument and the cosmological argument.

Traditional "proofs" of God's Existence
1) The argument from Design.
If you found a clock and examined the mechanism within it, you would probably think that this intricate mechanism was not the outcome of mere chance, that it had been designed.
Now look at the universe; is it possible that such an intricate mechanism, from the orbits of planets round the sun to the cells in your fingernails could all have happened by chance? Surely, this enormously complex mechanism has been designed, and the being that designed it must be God.
2) The ontological argument
God is the perfect being. As He is most perfect, He must have all perfections. If God lacked existence He would not be perfect, as He is perfect he must exist.
3) The cosmological argument (God as "First cause")
Everything that exists has a cause. However, there must at some time have been a cause prior to all other causes. This 'prime mover' or first cause is necessary to explain existence. This first cause is God.

Pascal's Wager

The French mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-62) put forward an argument that would appeal to agnostics. (An agnostic is someone who believes that it is impossible to prove God's existence.)
His argument goes something like this: God either exists or he does not. If we believe in God and he exists, we will be rewarded with eternal bliss in heaven. If we believe in God and he does not exist then at worst all we have forgone is a few sinful pleasures.
If we do not believe in God and he does exist we may enjoy a few sinful pleasures, but we may face eternal damnation. If we do not believe in God and he does not exist then our sins will not be punished.
Would any rational gambler think that the experience of a few sinful pleasures is worth the risk of eternal damnation?


Kant attempted to show how philosophy could prove the existence of God. Unfortunately, for him his previous work showed that we could not know reality directly as thing-in-itself. What is real in itself is beyond our experience. Even if God exists, we can not know God as he really is.
For Kant the Christian could have faith in God, and this faith would be consonant with reason and the categorical imperative. Given that human beings have the autonomy to create moral values, it would not be irrational to believe in a God who gives purpose to the moral realm.


Hegel thought that the God of religion was an intuition of Absolute Spirit or Geist. Hegel's Geist is not like the transcendent (outside of our consciousness) God of traditional Christianity. For Hegel God is immanent and when we have understood that history is the process of Geist coming to know itself it appears that we are all part of Geist, or God.

Feuerbach and Marx

For Feuerbach and Marx religion is seen as the projection of the human essence onto an ideal: God does not make man. Rather "God" is the invention of human consciousness. Marx also sees that religion is part of an ideological view that encourages the oppressed to accept their fate. As he says: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about their condition is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions."

Søren Kierkegaard

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) agreed with Kant that the existence of God could not be proven by reason. However Kierkegaard did not think that it was rational to believe in God, rather one should have faith in God even if this seems to reason to be absurd. To put it another way reason has no place in faith. God is beyond reason.
Kierkegaard is regarded as the first existentialist.

Nietzsche: The Death of God

"Have you not heard the madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place and cried incessantly, 'I seek God!, I seek God!' ... Why, did he get lost? Said one. Did he lose his way like a child? Said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? Or emigrated?... The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his glances.
"'Whither is God'? He cried. 'I shall tell you. We have killed him - you and I. All of us are his murderers...'"
"...the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they to were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke and went out. 'I came too early,' he said then; 'my time has not come yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering -it has not yet reached the ears of man."
In these passages Nietzsche is showing the inevitable unfolding anthropocentrism (lit. putting man at the centre of the world) implicit in philosophy since Kant. If we view our existence through human categories, then our concept of God is itself a human creation.
Nietzsche is not simply asserting his atheism; he is suggesting that once we are aware that the concept of God is our own creation we can no longer base our religious and moral beliefs on any notion of a divine external reality.
In the period that Nietzsche was writing, the death of God was just beginning. Western thought was starting to face the prospect of a radical change in its orientation, and it wasn't quite ready to own up to it yet.

Kierkegaard and Nietzsche represent opposite reactions to the inability of rationality to give a rock solid theoretical proof of God's existence. Kierkegaard calls for us to embrace God even if it seems an absurdity, while Nietzsche says it is time for us to create a new mode of being, with human creativity at its centre.

The atheist existentialist Sartre accepted God's death and much of his writing is attempt to look at the human condition in a world that is without a prime mover who could have provided a basis and structure for the understanding of being.

The twentieth century philosophy

Anglo American analytic philosophers of the twentieth century have tended to agree that philosophy may help us clarify religious concepts, without giving us a secure foundation for religious belief.
Many people claim to have had a religious experience, to have experienced the divine directly. This experience is direct and is of a different quality to sensory experience or intellectual discovery, and therefore outside of the scope of philosophy.
The view that the existence of God cannot be proved or disproved by philosophy has not stopped developments in modern theology. Theologians are attempting to balance the anthropocentric view of God presented by philosophers since the Enlightenment with the need to provide a spiritual path and a guide to an ethical and meaningful way of life.

marți, 15 aprilie 2008

The Seven Great Lies About God

~~~Lie #1:
If you live a moral life, deny yourself pleasure,follow the prescribed rituals and give us enough money,you'll have a decent shot at being accepted by God.~~~

Remember that scene near the end of the Wizard of Oz,when Toto is pulling back the curtain? The sound system is bellowing, 'Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. THE GREAT AND POWERFUL OZ HAS SPOKEN!' And There's a little man behind the controls, talking into a microphone.
Kind of reminds you of certain religious institutions,doesn't it? Short little insecure men, hiding behindnames and titles, sending everyone on Mission Impossiblewhile they themselves indulge in secret sin. Thepreacher stands in front of thousands and shakes hisfinger. Nobody else knows that he had a stripper in his hotel room last night.
Somebody tells you, 'Here, follow all these rules and be the best person you possibly can, and you might have a shot at being accepted by God someday.' Then they string you along and get you under their thumb.
No wonder people are cynical.
Well it's no accident that Jesus' own biggest enemies 2000 years ago were precisely those same self-righteous hypocrites. When Jesus showed up, they were terrified of losing their cushy jobs and political clout. Eventually they murdered him for exposing their racket.
True spirituality had been buried in a big pile of bureaucracy, and the religious establishment used it to gain leverage – to have power over people, to get priority seating in expensive restaurants, and to line their pockets with cash.
They had everyone thinking that pleasing God was a never-ending performance marathon.
Well Jesus painted a totally different picture. He told this story:
'Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a holy man and the other a tax collector.
The holy man stood and prayed, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this lousy tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.'
But the tax collector, standing far away, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'
Jesus explains: 'I tell you, this tax collector went home forgiven, rather than the holy man; for every one who praises himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be praised.'
Beware of the proud holy man who hangs a bunch of rules around your neck.
That humble tax collector had it right. He was doing the only thing you and I can do to be accepted by God. He just asked – with humility.

~~~Lie #2:

God is huge and unapproachable, and He wants you to labor, struggle and live in guilt.~~~

2000 years ago, they wouldn't even dare say the word 'God.' God was distant, remote, and terrible.
But Jesus had his own words for God, and he used them freely. They were controversial, even scandalous.
His words for God:
And 'Your heavenly father.'
So when the Religious Gestapo condemned him for hanging out with ruffians and women of ill-repute, he told an even more scandalous story:
'There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Dad, I wish you were dead. Why don't we pretend you are dead, and give me my share of the family estate.' So the father divided his property between them.
A few days later, the disrespectful son packed his bags and headed for a distant land. He squandered his inheritance on wine, women and song. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he got hungry.
So he got a job feeding pigs. (Jews considered pigs to be repulsive.)
This young man would gladly have eaten the pods that the swine ate; but no one gave him anything.
But when he came to his senses, he said to himself, `How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I'm here starving! He went back to his father. But while he was still far away, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
The son said, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
But the father said to his servants, `Go get the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and have a huge party; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.'
Jesus sums it all up like this: 'I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who comes back than over ninety-nine people who are already good.'
The father in the Prodigal Son story was not concerned with his dignity. He was not concerned with what was 'fair.' When his son wanted to go his own way, he let him go. But he was watching out the window the whole time, hoping he would come back.
That's Jesus' picture of God – just like the father in this story. Loving. Forgiving. Approachable. Not distant and condemning.

~~~Lie #3:

You are not smart enough or good enough to think for yourself. We will do your thinking for you.~~~

Do you know what the most important invention in the history of the world was?
It wasn't the computer. And it sure wasn't the light bulb or the telephone. (Or even the electronic voting machine.)
It was the printing press.
In 1445, Johannes Gutenburg invented the world's first movable type printing press. He didn't know it, but he was unleashing a revolution that continues to this day. Even the mighty Internet in 2004 is just an extension of Gutenberg's original, revolutionary machine.
The first book he printed was the Bible. And that ledto controversy, too, because Luther translated it intoGerman, the people's language, instead of Latin, the lingo of the religious elite.
Suddenly, ordinary folks could not only afford a copy, but they could read it for themselves instead of getting some guy's self-serving interpretation. Soon the cat wasout of the bag--there were copies scattered all over Europe.
When people started to read it, they were alarmed at what they saw, because between the covers of this book was an amazing story that had seemingly little to do with the politics and shell games he saw in the church.
Luther wrote a list of 95 accusations against the church -- priests taking bribes and granting 'indulgences', the institution setting itself up as a 'middleman' between man and God.
He argued was that God didn't need a middleman,or a distributor, or an agent, or a bureaucracy. People could go direct to the source.
This little 'schism' in Wurms, Germany unleashed a firestorm of protest and permanently changed the way people approached education. No longer was a big, faceless institution responsible for your spiritual progress -- YOU were. Now that you had the knowledge in your hands, you were accountable before God to do something about it.
It's no coincidence that the scientific enlightenment and industrial revolution began within 50 years of this reformation. Now that ordinary folks had access to knowledge and the freedom to pursue it, the possiblities were limitless.
The printing press took the handcuffs off of knowledge and spirituality, and the world has never been the same. Equal access to knowledge empowered people everywhere, and it was only natural that the rennaisance, and in time, democracy too would follow.
What's troubling now is that most people still don't do anything with the knowledge that's available to them. Why would you accept a 'canned' answer or empty platitude when you can open the book and read about it for yourself?
People have debates about Jesus, but most have never read the real story--they just believe what they're told. How sad.
If you want a 'Just the facts ma'am' version of what really happened, grab a Bible (please -- a modern English version that's easy to read, not something from the 1600's) and read the book of Luke. A truly fascinating story will unfold.
I dare you to read for one hour and then stop!
And you know what? Nobody will need to tell you what it means. You'll be quite able to figure it out for yourself.
You can download the book of Luke free online by clicking here:
Print it out and take it with you.
Or, you can listen in MP3 by clicking this link:
You might like to burn the MP3 onto a CD and listen to it in your car.

~~~Lie #4

Women are spiritually inferior and must submit to the authority of men.~~~

In the religious bureaucracy of the ancient world, women were basically property. If she burned his toast, he could divorce her and send her away destitute. If she saw a crime in progress and reported it to the police, her testimony in court would be thrown out--simply because she was a woman.
Women weren't considered smart enough to recount what really happened.
Isn't that special?
Get this. Jesus gets crucified. His body is taken down and put in a guarded tomb.
Three days later, some of his female friends come to the tomb, the door is wide open, and nobody's inside. They're shocked. But they're even more shocked when Jesus shows up. He talks to them. These women are the first people to see this astonishing event and report it. The men don't believe it until they see for themselves.
Well here's the kicker: Had somebody invented this resurrection story out of thin air, they would *never* have said that women found the empty tomb--because women in that culture were considered inferior and unreliable anyway.
So what this proves is:
1) This story can't possibly be made up, because no person who invents such a hoax would ever put women in this role. The fact that women are the first witnesses to the fact virtually proves that Jesus DID actually rise from the dead. A conclusion that has staggering implications.
2) This also shows that Christianity considers women to be equal to men. Jesus had many women in his inner circle, and there were female leaders and prophetesses in the early church.
When religion runs amok, it's always in the interest of one of three things:

Don't you agree?
And what could be more convenient than for selfish men to shove women around and say it's the will of God?
You know, the thing about genuine spirituality is that it isn't used as a weapon to control people. Yes, Jesus gave some pretty stern warnings and he talked about some heavy subjects. But how often do you see him bossing his followers around?
He didn't do that. Instead, he took off their shoes and washed their dirty feet to show them how they should serve each other. His life and death are the deep irony of God engaged in the humble service of mankind.

~~~Lie #5:

There is no single truth. Everyone needs to explore and find a truth that works for them.~~~

This one's a real hot potato. And it's not something you hear so much from ancient religious institutions... rather, it's simply the 'politically correct' way to talk about spirituality these days.
It tends to be expressed something like this: 'You've got your truth, and I've got my truth. You find a faith that works for you, and I'll find a faith that works for me.'
Well here's my question:
How many conflicting versions of the truth can actually be true?
I'm not going to use this space to promote an agenda today -- or to push any specific claim of Ultimate Truth. I'm just going to highlight a very simple, logical reality that each of us, in our search for Truth, must recognize. Pardon me if I offend you, but I'm going to put it bluntly.
It's impossible for all religions to be true.
In other words, if Islam is essentially true, then Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity are not. If Buddhism is essentially true, then Islam, Christianity and Hinduism are not. And so on.
How can I say such a thing? Because if you *really* study these religions, it will become clear that each makes bold, fundamental assertions about reality that are not compatible with the others.
For example, Hinduism states that divinity is present in everything.Christianity, Judaism and Islam all assert that God is distinctly separate from what he has created. The implications of these different views run very deep, and they are fundamentally incompatible. It's logically impossible for both views to be true.
So why bring this up, anyway?
Well first I have to make a confession. I would *like* to believe that all religions could be true. I would personally *like* to believe that all paths lead to God. It feels good. It's a kinder view of the world. It puts everyone on equal footing.
But it just doesn't make sense.
Truth is, by nature, exclusive. There are always more wrong ways to do just about anything than right ways. There are always more wrong answers to any given question than right ones.
And you know what? This really raises the stakes. It puts a real sense of urgency in our search for truth, because it shows that if we're not careful, we can fall for a half-truth.
On the other hand, if you diligently search, seek out the facts, and your spiritual journey brings you to a place where the pieces fit in place - if everything makes logical sense and it feels right in your heart - then you should not hesitate to share your joy with others.
OK... now let's stop right now and make something very clear:
If we possess the truth, it doesn't give us the right to be unkind to those who disagree. It didn't give Bin Laden the right to declare Jihad, hijack airplanes and fly them into the World Trade Center. It didn't give so-called 'Christians' the right to kill people in the Crusades. It doesn't give us the right to be disrespectful or violent.
What it does give us is the right - and the confidence -to go out into the marketplace of ideas and *see* if our Truth stands up to hard scrutiny.
C.S. Lewis was talking about this very thing when he said, 'You don't need to defend a Lion. You just need to let him out of his cage.'
If you really do have the truth, then you have nothing to fear. You don't need to burn books or censor speech. Truth is its own best defense.
In our modern, sophisticated culture, spirituality getslocked up in a cage. It's a taboo subject. Discussions about religion are not considered 'polite conversation.' So nobody talks about it.
The result? People don't talk to each other. They live in fear and isolation.
Some folks harbor ideas and notions that make absolutely no sense, but because those ideas are never brought out into the light of day, they're never questioned.
Others have great wisdom, but they're afraid to share it with others!
How sad.
In your search for the truth, then, know that you're not just looking for something that sounds good. As with any other kind of truth, it may *not* feel good all the time. Know that you're looking for something definite, something that will by nature make some pretty bold claims.
Also, please understand that if someone tells you they possess the truth, they're not being arrogant. Fact is, they're either sadly deceived or else they're right. You can't put someone down for being deceived, and you can't fault someone for being right!
The real challenge is to discern the difference.

~~~Lie #6:

The Bible is out of date, inaccurate and over-rated. Peoplein the 21st century are way too smart for that.~~~

At first blush this doesn't seem like an 'Organized Religion' thing. The reason I include it here is that many large religious organizations do teach it today.
Let me ask you something: Don't you think it's a lot easier for a leader to sneak in his own agenda when there's no outside authority to compare it to?
Mortimer Adler, one of the greatest living literary scholars, spent decades researching a book called 'The Great Ideas.' He read every single major piece of literature in Western history, and his book explores the 102 most influential ideas that have defined Western culture.
In the first chapter, he talks about 'The Twentieth Century Delusion.' What's that? It's the fact modern people *think* that we are more enlightened about all subjects than people were 1000 years ago.
Are we more enlightened about science and technology?
Are we more enlightened about morality, philosophy and politics?
In college I took a class called 'English Authors Before 1800.' I was amazed at how sharp those writers were. Once you get past the 'old English' language, you discover that Shakespeare's characters are just like the people you talk to every day.
The book of Proverbs in the Bible was written 3000 years ago, but its advice has saved my butt many, many times.
'A soft answer defuses anger, but harsh words stir up evil.'
'A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.'
'The fool hates to be corrected by his father, but a wise son listens to advice.'
Are we really wiser in the 21st century than people were thousands of years ago?
Solomon, the author of Proverbs, said 'There is nothing new under the sun.' Many people have laughed at that statement. But he wasn't talking about technology. He was talking about the issues of the human heart. Malcolm Muggeridge said, 'News is old things happening to new people.'
So is the Bible a translation of a translation of a translation? Could it be reliable? Is it worth taking seriously?
For centuries, the oldest existing copies of the Old Testament were from 1100 AD. Because so many prophesies in the O.T. had come true, many scholars declared that it was written after the fact.
For example, Isaiah described the cruicifixion of Jesus with remarkable precision, 700 years before it happened. Daniel predicted the rise and fall of the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires, in sequence, including remarkable details - in 550 BC.
Astonishing stuff.
The skeptics had the upper hand in this debate until a boy threw rocks into a cave in the Qumran valley in 1947 and discovered what are now known as the 'Dead Sea Scrolls.'
Not only did these scrolls date back to 200BC, proving that these astonishing predictions were written BEFORE the events took place, but the text was virtually identical to the later versions.
Similarly, we have 5,000 ancient manuscripts of the NewTestament, some of them dating back to ~60 A.D. The text is unquestionably solid.
There are plenty of people who say that the Bible is flaky and full of holes, but honestly, the facts simply don't support that conclusion.
Take the 'Gospels' -- same-generation accounts of Jesus' life in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There are *no* other events in ancient history that are documented as well as Jesus' life. If we can't believe those history books, how can we believe any other ones?
Of course the only reason anybody doubts this stuff is that it talks about miracles. Jesus feeds 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fishes. He heals the blind and the lame. He himself rises from the dead.
Can this be believed? Or was it just a big conspiracy?
Well, that is THE question.
Chuck Colson, a former US Government official who went to jail for his involvement in the Watergate scandal, tells this story:
“Watergate was a conspiracy to cover up, perpetuated by the closest aids to the President of the United States.
But one of them, John Dean, testified against Nixon, to save his own skin - only two weeks after informing the president about what was really going on. Two weeks!
The real cover-up, the lie, could only be held together for two weeks, and then everybody else jumped ship in order to save themselves. What's more, nobody's life was at stake.'
Why do I bring this up? Because conspiracies planned bybig groups of people always fall apart. Somebody always narks.
Well in the case of Jesus, eleven disciples were crucified, tortured, stoned to death and burned to the stake because they stuck to their story.
They were all ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED that Jesus rose from the dead.
The historical narrative reports that the first witnesses to the resurreciton were women. Given the legal standing of women at that time, nobody would have written the story that way had it been made up.
What do you think?
Well, you really can't make an informed decision until you read the story.
Fortunately there are four versions of that story -- Matthew's, Mark's, Luke's and John's. Read one or all and decide for yourself.
If you don't read the story, you're not in any kind of position to decide. Examine the evidence so you can make an educated decision.

~~~Day #7:

If God was really powerful and good, he wouldn't allow so muchevil and suffering to go on.~~~

This is raised by just about everyone: Priests and ministers, college students and housewives, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.
It's one of the hardest questions anybody ever asks.
Just a few days ago, a close friend of mine, Laurin, passed away after a fierce 18 month battle with cancer. What a horrible experience this was for him and his wife Diana.
I've visited the slums of Sao Paulo Brazil, where 500,000homeless street kids sniff glue and steal for a living. Sometimes the police hunt them down and kill them, just to reduce the crime rate.
Last year my wife spent a week in Mozambique where she saw an infant in her mother's arms, dying of pneumonia in a hospital waiting room. She met hundreds of other kids with malaria and malnutrition. We've given some money for a medical clinic, and every bit helps. But the problems are so huge, what little you try to do still seems like a teardrop in the ocean.
If you took all the parties, the humor, the success and happiness in the world, and put it side by side with the suffering and pain, the comparison would be almost absurd.
There's a lot of sickness and sadness in this world.
How can God let it go on?
Well, I can't give you an answer. I can only tell you a true story.
A certain man threatened the Religious Gestapo, who inturn convinced the Roman government that He was a threat to them, too.
His followers were disappointed that He didn't overthrowthe Romans and declare himself King, like the Messiah wassupposed to do. So they abandoned Him.
The ancient Romans pioneered what was possibly the most cruel form of torture ever devised by man: Crucifixion. They would drive spikes into their victim's ankles and wrists, smashing his nerves. He would hang there in blinding sheets of pain, slowly suffocating and dehydrating for days, until he finally expired.
Jesus was whipped and beaten, literally beyond recognition, then nailed to a cross between two common criminals.
One of these criminals was cursing and shouting at Him in a fit of rage: 'HEY! If you're the KING, why don't you get yourself down from there! And US, TOO!!!'
The other guy went along with this... for a little while.
But he saw that Jesus wasn't hurling insults at his torturers. Instead He was asking God to forgive them (?!).
He sobered up. He said to the other criminal, 'Hey dude, you and I are here because we deserve it. But this man Jesus has done nothing wrong.'
Then he said to Jesus, 'Remember me when you take charge of your Kingdom.'
Jesus simply replied, 'Today you'll be with me in Paradise.'
Stop the camera.
What you have here, in this brief conversation, is a snapshot of the entire world.
You have two criminals who have gotten themselves into a horrendous, awful mess. And you have the Son of God, who has not only chosen to live with us in our world of pain and suffering, but has personally taken all of it upon his own shoulders. Even though he is completely innocent.
One thief refuses to accept any responsibility for his actions. He's unwilling to admit that he created the very mess that he's in.
He lives in denial until the bitter end. He grits his teeth and dies in his sin.
The other thief comes clean. He recognizes that Jesus possesses divine authority. He admits his guilt. He is required to do nothing, other than to let go of his pride.
He asks for forgiveness.
Forgiveness granted.
Jesus' pardon doesn't make the cross or the agony go away. But finally the struggle ceases and this man crosses the Great Divide. The intense pain dissolves and he steps into a New World, designed by God Himself -- with renewed body and soul.
That's a picture of the entire world, right there. You and I are in this mess together, and we've all contributed to it.
We've all rejected God in some way or another, we've allcommitted some kind of crime, and we all experience suffering.
The situation is what it is.
So we have a simple choice: Accept that fact that God has suffered with us -- or mock him and be furious because the suffering exists in the first place.
Which way do you want it???
The decision is yours. You and I will never get a true 'answer' about the pain and suffering we experience in this life. But in the midst of our pain, we have a companion. You and I can have the same conversation with Jesus that this criminal had, and we can experience the same forgiveness. All we have to do is ask, just like the thief on the cross did on that sad day.
This is the last of the Seven Great Lies of Organized Religion about God. I pray that I've helped to strip away all the baggage that the Religious Gestapo adds to the story and reduce it to the bare essentials. I hope this has stirred your mind and your heart.