12 Myths Every Catholic Should Be Able To Answer (Part 1)
by Deal Hudson
Freedom of speech is a great thing. Unfortunately, it comes at an unavoidable price: When citizens are free to say what they want, they’ll sometimes use that freedom to say some pretty silly things.
And that’s the case with the 12 claims we’re about to cover. Some of them are made over and over, others are rare (though worth addressing).
Either way, while the proponents of these errors are free to promote them, we as Catholics have a duty to respond. Hopefully, this special CRISIS Magazine e-Report will help you do just that.
Please feel free to forward this to your friends and family. These errors are widespread, and it’s our responsibility to correct them.
So, at long last, I present to you 12 claims EVERY Catholic should be able to answer.
12 MYTHS EVERY CATHOLIC SHOULD BE ABLE TO ANSWER
1. “There’s no such thing as absolute truth. What’s true for you may not be true for me.”
People use this argument a lot when they disagree with a statement and have no other way to support their idea. After all, if nothing is true for everyone, then they can believe whatever they want and there’s nothing you can say to make them change their minds.
But look at that statement again: “There’s no such thing as absolute truth.” Isn’t that, in itself, a statement that’s being made absolutely? In other words, it applies some rule or standard to everyone across the board – exactly what the relativists say is impossible. They have undone their own argument simply by stating their case.
The other problem with this statement is that no relativist actually believes it. If someone said to you, “There is no absolute truth,” and you punched him in the stomach, he’d probably get upset.. But by his own creed, he’d have to accept that while punching someone in the stomach may be wrong for him, it might not be wrong for you.
This is when they’ll come back with an amendment to the original statement by saying, “As long as you’re not hurting others, you’re free to do and believe what you like.” But this is an arbitrary distinction (as well as another absolute statement). Who says I can’t hurt others? What constitutes “hurt”? Where does this rule come from?
If this statement is made based on personal preference, it means nothing for anyone else. “Do no harm” is in itself an appeal to something greater – a sort of universal dignity for the human person. But again, the question is where does this dignity come from?
As you can see, the further you delve into these questions, the closer you come to understanding that our concepts of right and truth are not arbitrary but are based in some greater, universal truth outside ourselves – a truth written in the very nature of our being. We may not know it in its entirety, but it can’t be denied that this truth exists.
2. “Christianity is no better than any other faith. All religions lead to God.”
If you haven’t heard this one a dozen times, you don’t get out much. Sadly enough, the person making this claim is often himself a Christian (at least, in name).
The problems with this view are pretty straightforward. Christianity makes a series of claims about God and man: That Jesus of Nazareth was God Himself, and that he died and was resurrected – all so that we might be free from our sins. Every other religion in the world denies each of these points. So, if Christianity is correct, then it speaks a vital truth to the world – a truth that all other religions reject.
This alone makes Christianity unique.
But it doesn’t end there. Recall Jesus’ statement in John’s Gospel: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” In Christianity, we have God’s full revelation to humanity. It’s true that all religions contain some measure of truth – the amount varying with the religion. Nevertheless, if we earnestly want to follow and worship God, shouldn’t we do it in the way He prescribed?
If Jesus is indeed God, then only Christianity contains the fullness of this truth.
3. “The Old and New Testaments contradict one another in numerous places. If an omnipotent God inspired the Bible, He would never have allowed these errors.”
This is a common claim, one found all over the internet (especially on atheist and free-thought websites). An article on the American Atheists website notes that “What is incredible about the Bible is not its divine authorship; it’s that such a concoction of contradictory nonsense could be believed by anyone to have been written by an omniscient God.”
Such a statement is generally followed by a list of Biblical “contradictions. ” However, claims of contradictions make a few simple errors. For example, critics fail to read the various books of the Bible in line with the genre in which they were written. The Bible is, after all, a collection of several kinds of writing…history, theology, poetry, apocalyptic material, etc. If we try to read these books in the same wooden way in which we approach a modern newspaper, we’re going to be awfully confused.
And the list of Bible “contradictions” bears this out. Take, for example, the first item on the American Atheist’s list:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8
“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Romans 14:5
There! the atheist cries, A clear contradiction. But what the critic neglects to mention is something every Christian knows: When Christ instituted the New Covenant, the ceremonial requirements of the Old Covenant were fulfilled (and passed away). And so it makes perfect sense that Old Testament ceremonial rules would no longer stand for the people of the New Covenant.
If the critic had understood this simple tenet of Christianity, he wouldn’t have fallen into so basic an error.
The next item on the American Atheist list is similarly flawed:
“…the earth abideth for ever.” Ecclesiastes 1:4
“…the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
So, the Old Testament claims that the earth will last forever, while the New says it will eventually be destroyed. How do we harmonize these? Actually, it’s pretty easy, and it again comes from understanding the genre in which these two books were written.
Ecclesiastes, for example, contrasts secular and religious worldviews – and most of it is written from a secular viewpoint. That’s why we find lines like, “Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything.” (Ecclesiastes 10:19)
However, at the end of the book, the writer throws us a twist, dispensing with all the “wisdom” he’d offered and telling us to “Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.” (12:13)
If a reader stops before the end, he’ll be as confused as the critic at American Atheists. However, since the viewpoint that gave birth to the notion of an eternal earth is rejected in the last lines of the book, there’s obviously no contradiction with what was later revealed in the New Testament. (And this is just one way to answer this alleged discrepancy. )
The other “contradictions” between the Old and New Testaments can be answered similarly. Almost to an item, the critics who use them confuse context, ignore genre, and refuse to allow room for reasonable interpretation.
No thinking Christian should be disturbed by these lists.
4. “I don’t need to go to Church. As long as I’m a good person, that’s all that really matters.”
This argument is used often, and is pretty disingenuous. When someone says he’s a “good person,” what he really means is that he’s “not a bad person” – bad people being those who murder, rape, and steal. Most people don’t have to extend a lot of effort to avoid these sins, and that’s the idea: We want to do the least amount of work necessary just to get us by. Not very Christ-like, is it?
But that mentality aside, there’s a much more important reason why Catholics go to Church other than just as an exercise in going the extra mile. Mass is the cornerstone of our faith life because of what lies at its heart: the Eucharist. It’s the source of all life for Catholics, who believe that bread and wine become the real body and blood of Christ. It’s not just a symbol of God, but God made physically present to us in a way we don’t experience through prayer alone.
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:53-54). We’re honoring Jesus’ command and trusting in that promise every time we go to Mass..
What’s more, the Eucharist – along with all the other Sacraments – is only available to those in the Church. As members of the Church, Christ’s visible body here on earth, our lives are intimately tied up with the lives of others in that Church. Our personal relationship with God is vital, but we also have a responsibility to live as faithful members of Christ’s body. Just being a “good person” isn’t enough.
5. “You don’t need to confess your sins to a priest. You can go straight to God.”
As a former Baptist minister, I can understand the Protestant objection to confession (they have a different understanding of priesthood). But for a Catholic to say something like this…it’s disappointing. I suspect that, human nature being what it is, people just don’t like telling other people their sins, and so they come up with justifications for not doing so.
The Sacrament of Confession has been with us from the beginning, coming from the words of Christ Himself:
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'” (John 20:21-23)
Notice that Jesus gives His apostles the power to forgive sins. Of course, they wouldn’t know which sins to forgive if they weren’t TOLD what sins were involved.
The practice of confession is also evident in the Letter Of James:
“Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:14-16)
It’s interesting that nowhere does James (or Jesus) tell us to confess our sins to God alone. Rather, they seem to think that forgiveness comes through some means of public confession..
And it’s not difficult to understand why. You see, when we sin, we rupture our relationship not just with God, but with His Body, the Church (since all Catholics are interconnected as children of a common Father). So when we apologize, we need to do so to all parties involved – God AND the Church.
Think of it this way. Imagine you walk into a store and steal some of their merchandise. Later, you feel remorse and regret the sinful act. Now, you can pray to God to forgive you for breaking His commandment. But there’s still another party involved; you’ll need to return the merchandise and make restitution for your action.
It’s the same way with the Church. In the confessional, the priest represents God AND the Church, since we’ve sinned against both. And when he pronounces the words of absolution, our forgiveness is complete.
6. “If the Church truly followed Jesus, they’d sell their lavish art, property, and architecture, and give the money to the poor.”
When some people think of Vatican City, what they immediately picture is something like a wealthy kingdom, complete with palatial living accommodations for the pope and chests of gold tucked away in every corner, not to mention the fabulous collection of priceless art and artifacts. Looking at it that way, it’s easy to see how some people would become indignant at what they think is an ostentatious and wasteful show of wealth.
But the truth is something quite different. While the main buildings are called the “Vatican Palace,” it wasn’t built to be the lavish living quarters of the pope. In fact, the residential part of the Vatican is relatively small. The greater portion of the Vatican is given over to purposes of art and science, administration of the Church’s official business, and management of the Palace in general. Quite a number of Church and administrative officials live in the Vatican with the pope, making it more like the Church’s main headquarters.
As for the impressive art collection, truly one of the finest in the world, the Vatican views it as “an irreplaceable treasure,” but not in monetary terms. The pope doesn’t “own” these works of art and couldn’t sell them if he wanted to; they’re merely in the care of the Holy See. The art doesn’t even provide the Church with wealth; actually, it’s just the opposite. The Holy See invests quite a bit of its resources into the upkeep of the collection.
The truth of the matter is that the See has a fairly tight financial budget. So why keep the art? It goes back to a belief in the Church’s mission (one of many) as a civilizing force in the world. Just like the medieval monks who carefully transcribed ancient texts so they would be available to future generations – texts that otherwise would have been lost forever – the Church continues to care for the arts so they will not be forgotten over time. In today’s culture of death where the term “civilization” can only be used loosely, the Church’s civilizing mission is as important today as it ever was.
Contributed by BCBP BOT Chairman Bobby Atendido. Source: From: CatholiCity. com