Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How do I know I am right?

Considering that people all over the world believe different things, and believe them strongly, how do you know that what you believe is right?

I often wrestle with this very idea- and frankly, I do not know that I am right! That said, I would be willing to die for what I believe.

The difficulty is that, we have to make a decision one way or another. Faith is a virtue, not an emotion, subject to our circumstances. That means that by its very nature, Faith is , at least in part, a choice. (It is also a gift, but that's another discussion!)

There is a sense that we should not commit to any one thing being true until we are absolutely certain that it is. The difficulty is, that I think absolutel certainty is impossible- therefore, adopting this philosophy we will live and act as though nothing were true!

We do have to make a choice at some point. Supposing there was a group of people lost in the woods. Each had their own idea of which way was the way, or the best way, out. No one knew for certain. For our analogy, let's suppose that no one was looking for them. The idea that they ought to just sit tight and wait for the way out to become aparent is a mistake. They will die lost. However, if they can apply their reason, determine which idea is most likely true, and follow it- that's probably their best chance.

Here the reasone why I think Catholocism is the most likely thing to be true, thus I choose to believe it and act accoridngly.

1. Miracles: There are some miracles, notably Our Lady of Guadalupe and the miracle at Lanciano, that I do not know what to do with unless I believe that they are true. They only other possibility in my mind is that they are very elaborate and well done hoaxes. (I will not humor the notion, espoused by Richard Dawkins, that the molecules just happened to rearrange themselves in the shroud just such that an image appears there, and all the other anomolies...). The difficulty is, supposing 500 years ago, Juan Diego thought he should decieve people into Catholocism by painting a picture on his robe... how is it that the illusion continues to persist and amaze under scientific scrutiny some 500 years later? Either the Catholic faith is true, or it is deliberately and continually deceptive. Either divine or diabolical.

I have also had personal 'miracles', but we'll leave those where they are for now, since they cannot undergo any scientific or objective scrutiny.

2. Logic. I suspect that if there is a spiritual reality, which by its very nature cannot be percieved by science, than either we would have to guess at it, or it would have to be revealed. Guessing would have no assurance whatsoever, so this leaves revelation.

Here's the difficulty with that. If truth is revealed, then it would have to be revealed by a good and personal God. (An impersonal God would not bother to reveal truth, and a God that is not good may not tell the truth). This immediately eliminates all the Eastern religions, Buddhism or hinduism, for example, which do not hold that there is a good and personal God who would revel 'himself' to us.

The western religions, including Christianity (and the sects- Jehovahs witnesses, Mormons, etc), Islam and Judaism. I will not here get into how Christianity fulfills Judaism,but there is remarkable evidence for that. I would argue however that Christianity- which holds that God is not only good and personal, but moreover is love, which may be said to be a perfection of those qualities- In Christianity, God by His nature suddenly wants to know us, and thus to reveal Himself to us. These ideas are ludicrous to Islam, which holds it as nothing short of blasphemy that Christians refer to God as Father.

So if the only way we could know truth is if God was good and personal, does it follow that the most good and personal God, ie, that of Christianity must necessarily be the right one? I guess not- it's not water tight, but it seems extremely likely to me!

Lastly, within Christianity. Supposing it really mattered to God that we know the truth, and moreover that we are united. (Jesus certainly indicated that this was important.) Either one of 2 things would make this happen. Either God would reveal Himself, and thus truth, to every honest and discerning person who sought Him, and thus all Christians would come to the same conclusions. I think history has demonstrated that this has not happened. The second option is that Christ would make a church infallible- that is, give it His assurance that it would never be wrong. Again, we can see if by history this has happened.

So far as I know, there are only 2 churches making that claim- Catholics and, to some lesser degree, Mormons. As to Mormons, they have also to claim that for several centuries this protection was lifted, and so there was no assurance of truth, and it was only recently restored.

I guess the question is, which Church has never contradicted itself on matters of faith and morals? It should be so remarkably easy to demonstrate that Catholocism has done this... unless it hasn't.

So, the long way around, it comes to this. I do not 'know' the truth, in the scientific, objective sense. I do know my experiences, but those don't weigh much objectively against the experiences of countless others who disgree with me. But in light of history and logic, I have made a decision, and hope to grow in the virtue of faith by living by that decision.

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