How much doubt is acceptable at baptism?

I’m considering starting RCIA classes. I’m very attracted to the Catholic Church. I agree with the values and ethics and believe in the efficacy of the sacraments and prayer.

However, my doubt about miracles, including the resurrection of Christ, is very deep. I see great spiritual meaning in the miracles, but doubt the literal historical reality of the resurrection and other miracles.

Does this prevent me from becoming Catholic? Is it not enough for me to submit to the Church on these matters and to set aside my doubts and incredulity as weaknesses of my faith that I will have to wrestle with with the help of the sacraments? Or, must I have at least a fairly strong intellectual certainty in the historical fact of the miracles before being baptized?

Thanks for any help.

If you doubt the Resurrection, why would you want to be a Christian? Jesus would then be just another guy who got killed for his beliefs. Without the Resurrection, what is there?

There’s the hope of eventual belief with the help of the sacraments.

There’s the opportunity to strive to live a righteous life under the guidance of the Church within a Catholic community–i.e., “Thy will be done, Thy kingdom come, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

There’s the opportunity to better nurture the Kingdom of God within me.

The teaching of Jesus, and the tradition that has emerged out of it, and the teachings of the Church, strike me as being something more than “just another guy” or “just another religion.”

Here is a link on how to join the Catholic church. As you read the Link below you may see how the process within the the church gives you preparation time.
Preparation for the Unbaptized

Preparation for reception into the Church begins with the inquiry stage, in which the unbaptized person begins to learn about the Catholic faith and begins to decide whether to embrace it.

The first formal step on the road to becoming a Catholic takes place with the rite of reception into the order of catechumens, in which the unbaptized express their desire and intention to become Christians. “Catechumen” is a term the early Christians used to those preparing to be baptized and become Christians.

The period of catechumenate lasts for a variable period of time—sometimes even years—depending on how much the catechumen has learned and how ready the catechumen feels to take the step of becoming a Christian. However, the catechumenate often lasts for something less than a year.

The purpose of the catechumenate is to provide the candidates with a thorough background in Christian teaching. “A thoroughly comprehensive catechesis on the truths of Catholic doctrine and moral life, aided by approved catechetical texts, is to be provided during the period of the catechumenate” (U.S. Conference of Bishops, National Statues for the Catechumenate, Nov. 11, 1986). The catechumenate is also intended to give the candidates the opportunity to reflect upon and firm up their desire to become Catholics, and to give them the chance to show that they are ready to take this serious step (cf. Luke 14:27-33; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

The second formal step is taken with the rite of election, in which the catechumens’ names are written in a book of those who will receive the sacraments of initiation. At the rite of election, the catechumen again expresses the desire and intention to become a Christian, and the Church judges that the catechumen is ready to take this step. Normally, the rite of election occurs on the first Sunday of Lent, the forty day period of preparation for Easter.

After the rite of election, the candidates undergo a period of more intense reflection, purification, and enlightenment, in which they deepen their committment to repentance and conversion to the Christian faith. During this period the candidates, now known as the elect, participate in several further rituals.

The three chief rituals, known as “scrutinies,” are normally celebrated at Mass on the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent. The scrutinies are rites for self-searching and repentance. They are meant to bring out the qualities of the candidate’s soul, to heal those qualities which are weak or sinful, and to strengthen those which are positive and good.

Normally during this period, the candidates are also formally presented with the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, both of which they will recite on the night they are initiated.

The initiation itself usually occurs on Easter Vigil, the evening before Easter Day. That evening a special Mass is celebrated at which the candidates are baptized, then given confirmation, and finally receive the holy Eucharist. At this point the candidates become Catholics and are received into full communion with the Church.

Ordinarily the bishop oversees the Easter Vigil service and confers confirmation upon the candidates, but often—due to large distances or numbers of candidates—a local parish priest will perform the rites.

The final state of Christian initiation is known as mystagogy, in which the new Christians are strengthened in the faith by further instruction and become more deeply rooted in the local Catholic community. The period of mystagogy normally lasts throughout the Easter season (the fifty days between Eastern and Pentecost Sunday).

For the first year of their life as Christians, those who have been received are known as “neophytes” or “new Christians.”

It sounds like God is at work in your heart and mind. I say, continue to pursue this calling and begin to pray (if you aren’t already) that God will reveal Truth to you. Don’t expect a lightning bolt, but begin to act in a faithful manner, and pray for the grace to understand Truth.

I’ll include you in my prayers.

I’m not sure whether I understand what you mean by the word “doubt.” From the first two paragraphs, it would seem almost as if you believe in the ethical, spiritual, and sacramental aspects of Catholicism but reject claims of God intervening with physical creation, like the resurrection and miracles, instead imposing an exclusively spiritual meaning upon these ideas, as if, perhaps, God has the power to intervene in spiritual matters but not physical ones.

Your third paragraph however seems to clarify that you do in fact in some sense accept Church teachings on these matters. In what way do you accept them? Do you mean you give your intellectual ascent to these truths and simply are struggling with recurring temptations to doubt? Or are you attempting some kind of Orwellian doublethink in which you accept as truth something you on the other hand believe to be falsehood? Or are you accepting them gramatically so to speak but imposing an entirely different meaning upon the words?

There is a huge difference here. Most of us struggle to understand elements of Church teaching at certain times of our lives, and accepting a teaching we don’t fully understand can be difficult. For some this is a harder struggle than for others. These struggles are often called “difficulties” in Catholic lingo, as opposed to “doubts.”

“Doubt”, on the other hand, is often used to mean you actually withhold your intellectual assent from the teaching you are having difficulties with. Even if you do not outrightly reject the teaching as false, remaining “undecided” so to speak constitutes a failure to believe some element of the Catholic Christian Faith.

As Bl. John Henry Newman said, “ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.” We can accept a doctrine without understanding why it is true, realizing that the fault is with our own understanding and not with the doctrine itself. This is entirely different from doublethink, in which a person holds two mutually exclusive beliefs at the same time- for example that Jesus has been resurrected bodily and that he has not been resurrected bodily. It is also different from accepting some verbal formula but imposing an entirely heterodox interpretation upon it- like that Jesus was resurrected bodily but that this is only a metaphorical myth that never really happened, or only happened in the hearts of the disciples, or something along those lines, rather than what the Church has clearly always meant by the teaching.

So, to answer your question, you must give your true assent to all the revelations of God in Scripture and Tradition as taught by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Don’t get baptized only to immediately be a heretic. On the other hand, one may and probably will continue to struggle with certain aspects of the faith one initially finds counterintuitive. Having these struggles doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t receive baptism and become a Catholic, as long as you do not let the difficulties cause you to refuse to believe aspects of the Catholic Faith.

I’d say go for it. I doubted the very existance of God a lot before I was Baptized and Confirmed, but I’m very strong in my faith, because of the help of the Sacraments which have given me more faith

Pray every day “Lord, help my unbelief” and “Show me reasons not to doubt”. Your prayers will be answered.

(1) RCIA is The Place to learn and ask questions. (2) There is totally Science proven “First Photo Negative” of the Arising from the dead (Obviously) Crucified Christ, including his rare blood type, Exactly as the Bible describes. Search the all Science [SIGN]Shroud of Turin [/SIGN] web. (3) All verified Miracles are Totally independantly Verified by Science and MD’s; Imossible Naturally. Several Books and exhibits about them and TV Series on EWTN in their library. Vivat Jesu (Jesus Lives/Live in Jesus: Knights of Columbus 4th degree greeting) [LIST] Of interest: Our Lord performs all 7 Sacraments He initiated, Through the Apostolic Powers Priesthood He bestowed in the Apostles.
[/LIST] [LIST] 2nd interesting: Only the Billion Roman Catholics and 300 Million Orthodox/Eastern Catholic Churches Live/practise/teach all the New Testament as Jesus Christ Intended. And: We are All Biblical also. :bible1:

I would say you should study the miracles of the Church as well. Look into the Eucharistic Miracles, the Incorruptables, Lourdes, etc… These are all things that there are absolutely 0 scientific explinations for, and they only happen in the Church. There are no reports of things like this in the secular world. Maybe seeing the current miracles will help you with believing the miracles of the past…

First, I think it’s great that you are feeling a call to a spiritual life. At some level you recognize a greater meaning. So, do you believe in God?

I think its pretty common in our modern age to struggle with miracles, because it’s easy to point to 2 thousand year old texts and question them in light of our modern sensibilities. However, there are examples of miracles in the Catholic church that have been tested by science in great detail, either by commission of the Church or by exterior bodies. Some suggested things to Google:

  1. The miracle of Lanciano. Please, find and read the scientific study, the fact that the flesh is still preserved and the phenomenon of the weight of the blood globules is pretty amazing
  2. The miracle of the Sun. Hundreds of eye witnesses to a prophetized event.
  3. Padre Pio - so many miracles that it’s hard to pick just one.
    Also, try to watch/read the arguements made by Lee Strobel. He was an atheist reporter who came to some pretty powerful conclusions. I watched a copy of it on Netflix streaming…

God Bless

Lets put it thus way, when you are baptized you will have to recite a profession of faith and will have to recite the creed. So the question you will have to has is, Can I in good faith recite this:

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

or this:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us men and our salvation He came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary , and became man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day He rose again in fulfillment of the scriptures: He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

If you cannot say this in good faith after studying and being in RCIA, then it might be a good idea to put off your baptism for a year to continue your studies.

Yes! Absolutely this! :thumbsup:

I’m a revert cradle Catholic, and I’ve always struggled, and still struggle, with the Resurrection. I doubt. Not out of ill will or unwillingness to believe, but the truth is that I doubt. I always have. Maybe I always will, I don’t know. But every day I pray to God to forgive me my doubting and to strengthen my faith, because He knows only too well how weak my faith is.

Thomas doubted. In fact, he said point blank that unless he saw, he wouldn’t believe. It doesn’t sound to me like you’re giving God that sort of spiritual ultimatum. You’re aware of why you doubt, and yet you’re still persevering. The Lord knows you’re being open and honest with Him, and that’s a sign of love and trust.

It might help ease your mind to speak about your concerns with a priest or a spiritual director.

Hang in there. I’ll be praying for you. :slight_smile:

I agree. (But you have not started RCIA yet right?) So maybe you will feel different after that. What is your take on the eucharist? I understand Catholics take that quite literally to be the blood and body of Christ. It’s not just that they like it, it’s that they actually believe it. Do you?

Concerning various individual purported miracles, the Shroud of Turin, etc. “proving” anything supernatural,

  1. Science does not work that way
  2. We are not required as Catholics to believe in most if not all of these individual relics or signs.
  3. To someone who is not already on board with them, it can sound like just so much pseudoscience. You will find similar claims to miracles and such among any number of other religions. Not that their miracles being false means ours are false as well, but the fact that claims are made that a given miracle has been “scientifically proven” doesn’t mean it is true.
  4. Our knowledge of the natural world is still imperfect. It would be a mistake to assume that every time we encounter something that is not currently explainable according to our current scientific knowledge it is therefore supernatural.

In practice, it seems to me that miracles generally only work as a motive for belief for those who already accept the possibility of them, and probably already a great deal of the religion they take place within. Also, in any case, motives for belief such as miracles can never themselves actually give us divine faith.

To the original poster who is having difficulties accepting miracles, I would suggest dealing with them primarily on a theoretical level first. Regardless of whatever the veracity of various individual claimed extrabibical miracles may be, are such divine interventions into the physical order possible in general? If you conceive of God as being the omnipotent, sovereign basis of all other existence, including the laws of nature, why would He not be able to suspend, temporarily change, or override those laws when in His wisdom He decides it is the best thing to do?

Thanks, Colettine. I’m trying to pray. It’s very awkward! But I’m trying.


I’m not quite that well thought out on this. It’s not an outright rejection of claims of God intervening with physical creation…, but a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on how you think about it) skepticism concerning whether those interventions are so obvious as something like resurrection. Mind you, I’m coming from lifelong atheism, and even the concepts I’m coping with are difficult and foreign. Growing up in the rural Midwestern US, I was surrounded by evangelicals and Pentecostals, and their conception of God was very much a wrathful old-man-in-the-sky idea, and I reject that. This God of Love, God of Truth, that I sense when reading the Church’s social teachings and the discussion of the Decalogue in the Catechism is something quite different. I acknowledge humans as moral beings who are “fallen,” even though I come to that recognition from a non-theistic perspective, and only came upon the Catholic understanding relatively recently. In short, the God Catholicism describes is a God I can believe in, but I’m still sorting out what it means to believe in Him and what He is.

Intellectual assent in the sense of acquiescence, yes. Perhaps “submission” would be better. I can set aside the doubt so that it does not interrupt (currently, that I am aware of) my efforts at prayer and in trying to follow Mass, etc. To some extent, the grammatical explanation may be correct too. For example, and I’ll mention this in a response to another post, the Profession of Faith and the creeds: To some extent, in reciting them “in good faith,” I would be submitting my intellect and will to the Church’s teachings (i.e., I believe because the Church says it’s true). At the same time, I can wholeheartedly recite them with reference to the spiritual truths they hold, but don’t Catholics refer to the spiritual truths as well, even though they accept the literal truths more readily than I?

I don’t think the double-speak example quite gets at what I’m saying. It’s not like I argue, on the one hand, “Yes, it’s true,” and then argue later, “No, it’s not true.” Instead, it’s me thinking, “This is incredible, fantastic, and unbelievable, and I can not merely will myself to believe it in the same sense that I can believe in Seattle, Washington, where I’ve never been. But, the Church says so, and I have good reason to yield to the Church’s teaching.”

This is something I understand to be the product of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. It’s kind of ironic that those sacraments help with faith, yet to take them, you must have a certain about of faith.

I mentioned this above, but here I’ll repeat it.

On the one hand, I can wholeheartedly, without doubt, say the creeds in good faith regarding their spiritual meaning. The literal meaning is not *all *that the Catholic accepts, I assume (correct me if I’m wrong), and when reciting the creeds is going well beyond that literal meaning.

On the other hand, while I am filled with doubt, I can submit to the Church’s teaching, and simply accept as truth what I can not will my self to believe for any other reason (so far).

In other words, at this point–not yet having gone through RCIA–I would fill comfortable and would feel that I was being honest reciting the creeds. If as Easter draws near, though, I’m still where I am now on this matter, would this not be enough? I understand this is something I’d likely sort out during RCIA, but I’m very curious now.

I have not started RCIA.

This is another difficult miracle, isn’t it. Again, I see great meaning in the Eucharist. Obviously, physically consuming Christ–the Logos–Christ being physically within us, has extraordinary meaning, and will inevitably have great effect because of the deep meaning. This goes well beyond what I’ve seen done in some of the churches I occasioned in my youth (all very protestant). As far as the mystery of it, how transubstantiation works–well, it’s beyond me; but again, is it not enough to suspend disbelief and incredulity, to submit and trust the church on this? There’s the hope that some more solid belief will develop over time. Meanwhile, participating in the sacraments should help in that direction, and should help sanctify my life, allowing me to participate in the creation of heaven on earth.

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