Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Playing Both Sides of the Coin

Playing Both Sides of the Coin

G.K. Chesterton famously said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”  He was right.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen often reported that when he came across an avowed atheist, that person, in truth, didn’t really have a problem with the Creed; it was a problem with the Commandments.
          The phenomenon of atheism, by and large, is not an intellectual problem; it is a moral problem.  I know that there are very intellectual sounding arguments against God, and that many people have never been trained in philosophy or theology, so that, even though atheistic arguments have simple answers, many people simply don’t know how to respond when a professor, for example, starts to attack their faith.
          But culturally, our problem is not with the Creed, in belief in God; it is with the Commandments, in obedience to God.  A case in point: you will often hear from an atheist that there could not be an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God because if that God existed, evil could not exist.  The problem of evil, this objection is called.  Yet, that same atheist will also complain because the Church tells people how they ought to live, even [gasp!] in the bedroom!
          On the one hand, because God has granted Man a free will, which could be used for evil, He must not exist.  On the other hand, because the Church dares even prescribe (not enforce) a moral way of living, God must not respect Man’s freedom.  Therefore He must be a tyrant.  These incongruous arguments will come out of the mouth of the same skeptic.
          The one thing that God never does is take away our freedom.  He has given us a free will and it is a gift which will not be revoked.  All evil and all sin could have been avoided by the absence of this one characteristic of human beings.  But then we would not have been sons and daughters.  And we would not have been able to love.  The quote at the top of this blog, by Pope John Paul II reminds us that, as human beings, we are made for love, perfect love, Divine Love.
          We can not attain that without free will.  Man is not free to choose to love if he is not free to choose to hate.  God has become one of us, has suffered the wrath of human evil, and He has promised that, though sin has brought suffering into the world, we never have to suffer alone.
          At the same time, He calls us to be people of love, and like any father, He teaches us how to love; like any mother, the Church does the same.  He will not take away our freedom; we are free to obey or to disobey.  And He will be cursed for the consequences of our disobedience; and He will be cursed for asking for our obedience.  That is the world in which we live.
          That is the world in which He died.  As Christians, we do not belong to this world any more than He did.  But we must try to sanctify it, as He did.  And perhaps Christianity will be left untried by most people for the rest of human history.  But we are called to live it; to share it; to be the Hands and Feet of Christ in this world; and to lead the world to Heaven, one soul at a time.