THOUGHTS ON THE CATHOLIC FAITH NO. 2
(Fr. J. O'Neill, P.P., S.T.B)
Before a tradesman can start work, he has to have the right tools. It would be no use a motor mechanic trying to fix a car with a carpenter's tools, or a carpenter trying to make a table with a mechanic's tools. The same applies when we want to go to work on religion: we are dealing with God, who is spirit, and we must use the right tools. Later on, faith will come in to guarantee certainty, or the absence of faith will come to guarantee its horrifying vacuum.
Obviously, the tool box we bring to work in religion is the human spirit, and it has two compartments, the mind and the will. The mind can think (produce thoughts), reason (arrange thoughts in logical order) and imagine (produce mental pictures of things that might or might not be real).
The will is used to make choices. Each of these tools has a part to play in applying ourselves to religion, but we must not get their functions mixed up; so many do today (always did) and hence we have so much chaos in the world regarding man's relationships with God. ("Man" here includes male and female: some people prefer 'humankind,' but that's only being silly).
In finding out the truth about God, the essential tool is reason, and it has to work alone, keeping the imagination and will strictly under control.
Great damage is done if we start using these two latter tools: they can push our thinking off the path that leads to the discovery of the truth about God. For example: people say that cannot believe in "some old guy with a flowing beard floating about on clouds." No sane person sees God like that, even Michelangelo Buonarotti after he was so impressed by his magnificent God the Father on the Sistine ceiling. The imagination can help, but it cannot picture God as he is. Thus it can be a false guide.
The will can be a mighty anti-truth force: Try teaching religion to someone who does not want it. Christ summarised it when he said: "No one can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draw him."
It is impossible to prove there is no God, nor can anyone objectively disprove Christianity. Christ was opposed, and the opposition still goes on: he and his Church are rejected, not because they do not make sense, but because they do not suit the selfish.
Christ is not thought out, he is willed out, that is, the selfish simply do not want him, no matter how convincing the evidence for him.
So it is with much modern scholarship. The historic value of the gospels is denied, not because of sound evidence, but because the real Christ of history, accurately recorded in the gospels, does not suit those today who will their own 'truth.'
On any subject we need authority - proof of reality - to support our viewpoint or conviction. That authority must be more than some big name in the given field: even big names must found their credibility on objective reality, and not merely in theories that suit their disciples. That is, they must have reliable proof for what they hold, and not just try to say things that are popular.
Wide acceptance does not give a theory authority or produce truth; it might give the disciple the comfort of numbers, but honest scholarship is not interested in comfort in numbers.
Religion is not politics: you cannot have doctrine by democracy! A thing is not true just because a lot of people believe it.
Once the mind is free from fallible imagination, self-centred will and prejudiced emotion, it is ready to rush ahead and aloft with the new life it can receive from the divine gift of faith. Then it will be "filled with a joy that cannot be described," (St Peter) and be able to plumb the depths of "The unfathomable riches of Christ." (St Paul)
Father John O'Neill
17 Cameron Street, Doonside NSW 2767 Australia
Ph: +61 (2) 9622 3426
Fax: +61 (2) 9622 3376
Permission is granted to reproduce this article for religious education purposes in schools, home schools etc. and for the promotion of the Catholic faith.