Apostasy seems better than prayer, atheism more plausible than the Church. What should I do?

I have tried to be brief. There is more I could say. In summary, I am tired of God’s silence and my body’s defects and bodily pain, to the point that it seems the Church is wrong. I do not know how to understand God as Father, and I am not sure what to do to be happy again.


My current crisis dates back to when I interpreted the Bible to say that if we obey God, and trust in God, and ask God for something good, that God will give us that good thing. Moreover, the Church says that God is our Father, and so I thought God would interact with us as our human fathers do – communicating with us, helping us in substantial ways. I thought asking God to miraculously heal my body was a small thing, equivalent to asking a wealthy person for pocket change, and I have not been able to come up with any strong objections to the idea, since skeptics would be free to reject their miraculous nature, their free will preserved.

Over the course of two years, then, these ideas have undermined my faith, as they have underscored the silence and distance of God, which, in turn, strengthens the plausibility of the idea that my relationship with God is a delusion, that there is no Christian god. I have consequently spent what might be an excessive amount of time trying to convince myself that I’m not delusional, that the Church is correct. Finally, the thought occurred to me that my situation was absurd and unreasonable: Namely, that I cannot reasonably say that the Church’s teaching that God is a Loving Father can be reconciled with my experience wherein I am vainly reading the Bible praying to the Holy Spirit to learn His will, as Fr. Larry Richards taught, and being met with silence and some ancient history which appears irrelevant to my life today.

I then encountered Dr. Richard Carrier, who argues the origin of Christianity – the Gospel preached by St. Paul and others – was myth rather than reality, and that the Christian movement grew out of myth later misunderstood as fact. I have seen him take Ehrman’s material out of context, and make an argument from silence from the Bible regarding the Slaughter of the Innocents, and while it seems likely that he takes Paul’s writing out of context as well, I have not seen a refutation of his theory, nor have I seen his response to the assertion (made by Craig, Horn, and recently Jimmy Akin) that the majority of scholars disagree with him. He has made statements either to Trent Horn or to William Lane Craig suggesting many scholars’ historical methodology is flawed, and that there is not such strong disagreement with many of his claims.

I’ve been reading content from Gary Habermas, but so far I have not seen him refute Carrier, nor has he said anything I haven’t already heard before. As for philosophy, I have studied more than twenty arguments for God’s existence and I can point out problems or refute every single one. I have read several books already, e.g. from Swinburne, Lewis, Kreeft, Spitzer, Tacelli. I am left with my suffering in silence with the implication that the Church is wrong, and I do not know what I ought to do. The more I pray the more the Church appears to be wrong (since God does not answer), and the more I study the more I frustrated I become, as I appear to be wasting my time.

Finally, I am very much alone in Japan. My pastor cannot meet my needs and my Japanese is insufficient for attention elsewhere, so I cannot get any spiritual guidance locally. My problems are compounded by how busy I am, working more than full-time. Additionally, I think I am suffering from depression, and have had difficulty receiving medical treatment.

What should I do?

Here is what I am currently doing:
[LIST=1]
*]Reading Bible & Catechism according to a simple one-year schedule.
*]Praying for healing from the intercession of Venerable Michael J. McGivney & Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, usually with a few other prayers for others.
*]Receiving sacramental absolution of sins on Saturday
*]Receiving the Eucharist and attending Mass on Sunday
*]Keeping a journal trying to record good things in my life and what I have done for others
*]Trying to change the course of my life so I can begin receiving medical treatment for depression
*]Studying free content online (I am heavily in debt to the US Department of Education and so cannot justify buying anything)
[/LIST]

I drafted this letter to Dr. Habermas in response to his 2012 presentation on God’s Silence to the so-called “Shoreline Community Church”, but it appears he does not wish to engage in such correspondence.

Dr. Habermas,

Your Shorline Community Church 2012 presentation addresses the emotional aspect of God not answering prayers to some extent, particularly James 5 versus James 1, and the value of suffering well (to grow in obedience, Hebrews 5), but it is not enough for me, because it does not answer the chief question of how we are to understand God as Father when human fathers help their children when they are able to do so. In other words, we call it neglect or incompetence when a human father fails to feed his children, but if they don’t die, you call it “holding their hand” when God does the same thing.

When my wrist was broken, my father took me to the hospital to get the best healing he could give me. My body is defective and mutilated, but my ‘Heavenly Father’ hasn’t yet healed me – nor has He responded to any of my petitions to clarify if it’s not His will to heal me or if I should stop praying for healing. It seems like such a simple thing for God to do, and I grow so tired of apparently praying to a vacuum. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that Jesus is God’s final message to us, that God has nothing else to say, and Jesus in the Bible makes me think God does and will heal me if I ask – but He hasn’t yet, and I’ve asked consistently for years.

You say the Bible says we’ll have problems, but this does not imply that God cannot or would not heal our bodies: Certainly we’ll have problems as a result of free will and persecution, but it does not follow that we must also suffer e.g. arthritis and “internal” suffering as well.

Incidentally, you say you are not sure how to explain when James 5:14] “fails to deliver”, but wouldn’t apostolic authority preserved in the Catholic Church but not elsewhere explain this apparent shortcoming?

… I suppose the final paragraph would not have been conducive to receiving a response from him, but I thought that, as a Protestant, it would be good to try to evangelize.

I’m praying for you.
The website you link in your second paragraph, is that yours? It doesn’t say whose, and it doesn’t seem fully Catholic. God doesn’t always grant our prayers, and not always right away. There is little that he “must” do. That sounds like the protestant prosperity gospel.
I am sorry you feel that God is silent. He doesn’t seem silent to me, the New Testament is full of his messages to us. Some of my favorites: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you,” and “In the world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world.”
That’s God talking to us.
It sounds like the things you are doing are excellent.
If you are not healed, or not right away, you can offer your suffering for reparation for everyone’s sins.

.

Regarding your second post: your father also took you to the dentist, I expect, and you may not have enjoyed that experience. But you had no choice, although you may have thought he was an unkind father since he made you go through it.
God may have other concerns regarding you than making you comfortable. I don’t mean to sound harsh, truly, but God is concerned with our spiritual healing first, and we all have a ways to go.
We need to trust him, as a child does his father, even when we don’t understand what he’s up to.

God is just and infinitely good. God’s infinite goodness means we must love Him above all else because He is worthy of all our love. God does not answer our prayers the way we want because He is Justice and we deserve to suffer and to be tested to prove our love for God. We must ask for things in the right spirit, that of love and resignation to His will. God does not answer our prayers the way we want because He is Mercy and He has something better in mind for us. God does answer our prayers because He is Justice and we have acquired merit through Christ. God does answer our prayers because He is Mercy and wills our salvation.

If we resign ourselves to God’s holy will we will be saved by His mercy since that is His will. You should pray to Our Lady and Saint Joseph and the apostles Peter and Paul for a strong Faith - it is a gift from God and not something you can get for yourself.

I am sorry you are going through this. Sometimes God does not reveal Himself to us the way we intend or sometimes demand-He reveals Himself in His own time and own way.

Perhaps instead of having God prove Himself to you thorugh reading, research, healing and other things, Perhaps He would like you to prove yourself to Him through faith and works of Mercy to increase grace and understanding.

I imagine you’re aware of the Martyrs of Japan? If you want to be edified as to the purpose of suffering, give some thought to their suffering. Why would God let men and women be hung in a pit of entrails and garbage to die upside down as blood dripped out of their nose, mouth, and ears (as only one of many gruesome examples)? Surely there must have been a way He could have saved them.

But then again, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Maybe you are called to be a small martyr, you just don’t know it yet…

Whenever I feel down or lonely, I give a good thought to the English martyrs. In fact, martyrs could be a good argument for the fact that Christianity isn’t a myth. Why would the Apostles all die horrendous deaths for misunderstanding?

That’s all I have to say; sorry it isn’t more helpful, it is just what’s on my mind at the moment.

It’s great that you’re engaging on an intellectual level, but honestly.

You are way overthinking this.

**Fall in love with Christ. **
From there on, it’s a snap to believe and stay true to Him.
He’s not going to give you an exam on the last day regarding various theologians, wannabe theologians, or historians.

He’s just going to want to know if you love Him and desire to spend eternity with Him.
Work on that.

Peace.

On the Divine Mercy picture of Our Lord Jesus Christ, it says “Jesus, I trust in You.”

I need to keep reminding myself to say that prayer often, in all circumstances.

And this is a false belief.

You will get the something good you want if what you want is in the will of God.

“Not my will but thy will be done” - remember that little catch in the Bible?

Anything outside of God’s will is evil, even if you think is good, and you’ll never get that thing.

God only gives what he wants, not what we want.

God’s generosity is subject to a catch, not unlimited.

When we view the divine as a vending machine we invite trouble. When I get to thinking more about myself and realize that I am more egocentric I meditate (or pray?) using the words allow me to decrease that you may increase. I try to remember the teachings of Christ to “Be not afraid.”

 May you be filled with loving kindness. May you be well. May you be peaceful and at ease. May you be happy.

 Be not afraid.

Hi ethereality,

You are in my prayers, dear friend.

If you want some more solid theology, Rev. Garrigou-Lagrange is but one example of a leading Thomist who has expounded the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas with erudition. Some of his works are online:

‘God: His Existence and His Nature’:
ecatholic2000.com/lagrange2/untitled-23.shtml

‘Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought’:
ewtn.com/library/theology/reality.htm

I have never read anything that comes close to refuting the arguments he proposes for God’s existence. (I will abstain from providing a syllogism, because it is bound to be misunderstood without the metaphysical underpinnings that he presents at length).

About suffering. Unfortunately, many people - including Christians - have a flawed understanding of the purpose and value of suffering. There is no exhaustive explanation at our fingertips; but suffice it to say: even the least suffering, when united to the sufferings of Jesus, are of immense value. Our Lord has revealed to many Saints and mystics that suffering is his greatest gift. Why? Well, for starters, it humbles us; it makes reparation for sin; it is a just punishment for our own sins; it saves souls; it purifies us, and detaches us from earthly things etc.

I assure you that, for all you have suffered, God does not love you the less for it. In fact, suffering, in this life - when accompanied by a desire for God - is an evident proof of His love.

If apostasy seems better than prayer, consider this: The more the Saints sought after God, the holier they became. Now, if life is essentially meaningless; if morality, free-will and the like (which are inextricably connected) are mere chimeras, then there is absolutely no reason to give any weight to your current inclination, which, I think you know, deep down, will leave you frustrated and empty. To turn away from God, Who is Being and Goodness Itself, is necessarily to wander towards an abyss of darkness and misery.

Prayers to Our Lady - even small prayers, such as “Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!” - will infallibly bring you light and hope. There is no shortage of good reading material out there if you look for it. I’m sure the members on CAF could offer you many excellent suggestions, if you desire them.

Keep seeking the truth with your will (your heart) and your intellect, and you will find a renewed conviction in God’s existence and His nature (love).

Pax Domine!

I think Mike Licona beats Richard Carrier in this debate, particularly Licona’s first rebuttal. (paused at 1:34:32 after the formal debate ended to comment here) Carrier is seen grasping at straws throughout and, more significantly, is driven to strange almost-conspiracy theories to interpret the text because of his denial of God’s existence. (It is noteworthy that Carrier later changed his position to declare after this point that Jesus never even existed. He does use the same sort of logic to arrive at this new conclusion, shown in other YouTube videos, e.g. being hyper-literal with Paul, assuming that if Paul didn’t say it, then Paul didn’t know about it.)

I would like to paraphrase Carrier’s thought process, shown here and in his debates with Trent Horn and William Lane Craig: “It cannot be coincidence, and God does not exist so it cannot have been prophetic or divinely arranged. Therefore it cannot have actually happened – so it must have been myth; Paul and others must have been speaking figuratively.” He then proceeds to establish tenuous word translations and symbolic meaning to explain the text contrary to its plain meaning.

He also makes assumptions to favor his radical skepticism, e.g., “The Gospels cannot be independent eyewitness accounts or traditions, because that would strengthen the case for Christianity; therefore each Gospel writer borrowed and falsified the previous one – I prefer this explanation because it is easier to accept, but I’m going to arrogantly assert we know it as fact.”

Such is the modus operandi of Carrier’s scholarship. Ehrman and the others I’ve mentioned have pointed out when he takes lines out of context – he has a tendency to be hyperliteral, missing the forest for the trees, and arrogantly dismissive of other scholars – and this, together with his tendency to make unfounded assumptions (e.g. the one I gave earlier – “He didn’t say it therefore he didn’t know about it because it didn’t happen”; he gave this argument from silence again here with Licona) makes him altogether unreliable as a historian on Christianity.

I suppose I don’t see his scholarship as more plausible than the Church’s doctrine, but my suffering continues unabated and I’m still lacking a direct encounter with God.

I agree that “God” does seem far away, but then I think of the Holy Spirit, which really is close and present.

I get through my doubts with the Holy Spirit, if the Holy Spirit is real, why wouldn’t all the rest be?

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you, it is quick to come to our assistance and to illuminate our situations so we can see how God turns all things to the good, in the end.

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